Monday, December 29, 2008

ZACH WORTON: Working Class Hero.

http://flashcitrus.blogspot.com/

I know I have a very limited readership of basically people that know me personally, who read my blog because they see me in person at least once a week and are afraid I'm going to spring a pop quiz on them, all like, "Oh, this is just like that thing I wrote on my Blog... DID YOU READ THAT OR NOT, ASSHOLE!?!" So most people know that I hang out at and volunteer a lot of my time at my favorite comic book store in the world (so far... I haven't been to Japan yet), THE BEGUILING, and have health social interaction with the staff. One of whom is comic artist Zach Worton (whose other blog BALLAD OF A CROSSHATCH JUNKIE, I also link to at the side of this page).

Zach is currently splitting his time between working on an original graphic novel about the Gold Rush called "KLONDIKE", which looks to be a pretty sick piece of historical fiction, something I've only recently begun to take interest in, mostly because of things like DEADWOOD and ME AND THE DEVIL BLUES: The Life of Robert Johnson, and being resentful of how socially awkward nerds go around confirming all the negative stereotypes about comics that he hates.

Zach's a great guy, and I admire him greatly. He's the hardest working guy I know, and has a work ethic similar to mine, which I respect greatly, because when I really get worked up (heh... puns) and really get into that "workhorse zone", I tend to get frustrated with people that can't keep up with me; which is, most times, totally unfair, because I do a physically demanding job on a regular basis. I am also prone to taking any job I'm doing too seriously, because I'm afraid of letting anyone down. Thus, I like working with Zach because he can lift heavy shit, mostly uncomplainingly (you can't NOT complain about backbreaking phyical labor, no matter what your work ethic is like), for long periods of time, and with great speed. Zach is the kind of that that, when presented with a difficult task, does not hesitate or waste time voice the "injustice" of the task, nor does he tip-toe around it leaving it till th last possible moment, but rather tackles it head on and gets the fucking job done.

When he's not lifting the shit out of boxes at the store, though, Zach has me totally beat, because he goes home to his second job working on comics; something I've been putting off for far too long. Which is what brings us to the whole point of this post... I am utterly amazed that Zack is producing not only his graphic novel, but a series of short webcomics, which you can read at his new comics blog FLASHCITRUS.

I'm a little embarassed to admit that I just found out about this today, because I haven't been keeping up with people's blogs, but I'm glad I decided to do so today. I don't read any webcomics (well... I read NO PINK PONIES), mostly because... I fucking hate webcomics. It's irrational hatred based on broad generalizations and bad experiences I've had with webcomics, which, in theory, is a totally valid medium that just happens to produce mostly VAPID, DISHONEST BULLSHIT. Seriously, every since THAT WEEKLY stopped, I have not given a shit about webcomics. ENTER ZACH WORTON.

Now, a lot of this might be me projecting, as I actually know Zach and and can confirm it, but FLASHCITRUS, though only a few strips long thus far, is the most brutally honest and unforgiving observational humor strip I've ever seen. It's mostly about venting frustration, but there's a subtle self-depricating side to it as well. I'm also impressed with Zach's utter willingness to tackle uncomfortable subject matter, such as his feelings on growing old and death, after being forced to confront his mortality when visiting his girlfriends grandfather. The style he chose to draw the comic in, that psuedo-OWL magazine looking funny animal style, goes a long way to difusing what would otherwise become a total downer of a self-introspective story while at the same time adding a fun visual contrast between obviously cartoon visuals and the most serious, viseral, subject matter of the strips.

I really hope to see more of these in the future, and would like to maybe see them collected in a nice little book at some point. Good job Zach; you've made me not hate webcomics again.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

SPEAKING OF DRAGONBALL...



Now... I'm not going to say I told you so, but... I fucking told you so.

This is WAY more terrible than even I expected it would be. Why would you bother to license a hugely popular franchise to make a live action adaptation, and then the only element you keep of the original source material is THE TITLE and the NAMES OF THE CHARACTERS?

I don't even fucking care. This is pitiful. Fuck it. I'm not even curious to see how back they fucked it up, because I can already tell they fucked it up BAD.

In closing... FUCK DRAGONBALL EVOLUTION.

Monday, December 8, 2008

"YO! SON GOKU AND HIS FRIENDS RETURN" (Thank you Nadia Oxford)



Part2
Part3
Part4

Because I remain as if a small child inside, I present to you Toriyama's new DRAGONBALL OVA. Thanks to Nadia Oxford (AKA Mumbling Kitsune) for alerting me to it through her column on the unfortunately shitty new ANIMEONDVD site (sorry... Mania fucked it up. It used to be much better).

While this probably won't register on many peoples radars as being anything all that signifigant, as it's sort of a fluffy filler story, it's a nice bit of oldschool anime fun. Basically, there's a big party and everyone's invited in an almost Perez-esque character-wad, which is interupted by Vegeta's long lost loser brother, Tarble, who was exiled long ago for being an embarassing wuss. He crashes onto Earth with his ridiculous looking Pac-Wife and pleads for his big brother's help in beating up some Freeza-Level Space-Jerks. Goku and the gang, hungry for some action as they haven't put the boots to some kind of God-Like Cosmic Menace for almost two long years, argue about who will handle this new menace. After drawing radish straws, it's decided that these new alien threats will be deligated to the children, who need training anyways. Hilarity and property damage ensue.

As much as I love the episodes of DRAGONBALL where stuff gets blowed up, my favorite episodes were actually ones like this, were you get to see these characters completely out of their regular context. My absolute FAVORITE episode of DRAGONBALL is actually a filler episode, which was never in the manga, but could easily have fit in with Toriyama's brand of nonsensical pratfall humor, is the one where Chi-Chi forces Goku to go get his Drivers License, and Picollo decides to challenge him to a Drivers License-off, which almost destroys and entire city, and totals their respective cars. This episode is more up that alley, which is one of the strengths of DRAGONBALL that has made it an endearing fan favorite for the past 25+ years; the frictionless marriage of over-the-top martial arts action with ridiculous prat-fall comedy.

So while this episode doesn't really come off as being all that significant in terms of giving content starved DRAGONBALL fans any sort of closure post-series closing (DRAGONBALL has one of those typical shonen manga, "And they had adventures FOREVER" endings that's not actually an ending), it is a fun, nice looking, diversion that reminds one of why they liked this series in the first place, and why they still like it.

Monday, December 1, 2008

GATCHAMAN: I'm On Board for This Too.

























I'm soooooooooooooo fucking on board for this.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

ASTRO BOY Teaser: GET ON BOARD, MUTHAFUCKERS!



How can this not excite you?

How are you not filled with the awe and excitement of your youth? How can you not be overwhelmed with nostalgia?

When I was a kid, probably around 6 or 7, I got up at 6:00 every day to watch first THE MIGHTY HERCULES, but that what I was really up to see was ASTRO BOY. And, as the impressionable young boy that I was, what I took from that show was that I wish, hoped, and dreamed... that I was a robot. For real, no exaggeration. I wanted to be a robot. A robot with a heart and soul. The protector of humanity and robot-kind alike; the World's hero.

I remember so many great stories from ASTRO BOY... the robot liar, the Snow Leopard, the Robot God, Uran's Twin, Robio and Jullie-8, and of course, the greatest of them all; The World's Strongest Robot. Stories filled with adventure, romance, imagination, and likable, memorable, characters.

But why is it ASTRO BOY resonates so much with a young boy, like I was? I think it might be that I projected myself into Astro... though a robot, he had a family, friends, and went to school. And while he eventually gained friends, at first he was picked on and ostrecised for being different... hell, looking at his origin, he was even horribly abused by first his father, and then the robot circus he was sold into; but he persevered. He questioned the descisions of adults and had a childhood niavitte that I could identify with; he just wanted to save everyone. Astro didn't judge the villian, but rather looked for a compromise. That didn't mean he was stupid though. Astro was incredibly smart, and after some deliberation, his positronic brain could come up with the optimum solution to any problem. Astro represents childrens empowerment fantasy at it's finest, because it emphasises the best qualities of a hero: Honor, respect for all life, seek compromise before conflict, but take decisive action, and most importantly, use your strength to help others. Thus it was through that projection, that fantasy, that I shaped my moral compass.

So as to this trailer... am I excited? You bet your ass! What I don't get is why other people aren't? While looking for the trailer, all I came across was petty bitching and moaning; people that didn't like the look of it, that questioned the need for a revitalization of a childhood classic, that didn't think Tezuka would approve of the use of computer animation... Fuck that.

How does it look? EXCELLENT. IMAGI is a great studio that's been slowly but surely tempering their craft, and TMNT, while not a perfect movie, was nevertheless well directed and had some pretty astounding animation, and more importantly, art direction. I think that Tezuka's art actually lends itself quite well to computer animation because designed with animation in mind; every single character in Astro Boy is simply constructed with solid, geometric, volumes and very little unnessessary detail, which lends itself greatly to computer animation (as a student of animation myself, I have to say, the simpler the structure, the easier to animation). My only real critical point is that I wish the eyes on Astro were bigger than they are. But look at what they show us; the tunnelling through the ground, arms flailing wildly, flashlight eyes, and exploding through Mount Fuji, are both lifted directly from the 1960's opening of the show. This shows me that they're being true to the character. I'll even wager they put the machine guns in his ass.

As to the need to bring Astro back... have you ever watched kids movies, or saturday morning cartoons these days? Have you seen what we're teaching our kids? I'm not saying it's all garbage, but... what do kids learn from fucking BRATZ, WINX CLUB, SPONGEBOB SQUAREPANTS, or FAIRY GODPARENTS? It's all vacuous, commercial, and mean spirited. Have you ever just HUNG OUT with kids these days? O_O Do we need to revitalize a hero that once served faithfully as a positive rolemodel for everything that one should aspire to be? You're damn right! And all the better that it's something from everyones childhood; parents should be able to identify with their children, and there's nothing kids love more than to have their interests validated by adults, rather than being met with a condesending, "That's nice dear." Children's eyes sparkle when you show interest in what they are interested in. How many parents can tell their children stories of a character they loved that the children haven't heard of? "You think that's something? Why I remember the time Astro had to save the world's Seven Strongest Robots from Pluto, the Strongest Robot of them all!"

As for whether or not Tezuka would want to see Astro in all his 3D animated glory? Are you fucking kidding me, here? The man practically invented animation the Japanese! To his dying days he was on the forfront of artistic innovation. If he had a chance to actually build a robot boy with a 10,000 horsepower heart, he would have. As much nostalgia I have for classical animation, especially pretaining to this character, Astro Boy isn't about the past; he's about the bright and shining future. The promise of a better tomorrow. PROGRESS! INNOVATION! HOPE! Astro Boy has already conquered every aspect of the two-dimensional medium; time for the next.

So get on board with me people. Leave behind your pessimism and anger! Leave behind your paranoia and selfishness! Leave behind your anxieties and fears! By embracing a nostalgic hero of the past, may we find hope for a brighter tomorrow!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Trailer Time Again

STAR TREK XI



I still have this horrible feeling that this movie is going to suck, and this trailer sort of confirms that suspicion in a way, as it feels VERY un-Trek-like... but I will say this: at least it looks like shit happens in this movie. ALL THE TIME. Like... shit just constantly happening. Which has always been my one big beef with STAR TREK. That there are usually HUGE GAPS between shit happening, in which shit does NOT happen. Anyways, I'm still out on this one.

Of course I'll still see it.

JCVD

http://www.apple.com/trailers/independent/jcvd/

I actually already saw this, and I should probably give it it's own blog post, but JCVD (Jean Claude Van-Damme) was fucking AWESOME. It was everything you could want in a movie; funny, action packed, and a meaningful examination of the human condition. I really loved this movie, almost to the point of being moved to tears, TWICE.

FRIDAY THE 13th

http://www.apple.com/trailers/wb/fridaythe13th/

FRIDAY the 13TH is sort of a guilty pleasure of mine... I also like some of the HALLOWEEN movies as well, for the same reasons. See... the hero of these movies are not the teenager victims, but the murderous killers themselves, who punish these kids for being stupid, selfish, self absorbed and ignorant fucking TEENAGERS. Notice how the survivors are always the intelligent, open minded, virgins that don't smoke pot or have promiscuous sex... their reward for not being idiot whores is that they get to see adulthood! Jason is trying to SAVE HUMANITY by culling the dead weight of society! As is Micheal Myers. Now, the one difference between the characters is that you have no sympathy for Micheal Myer's, because he has no real motivation to kill these people other than pure malice and the fact that he's FUCKING INSANE. Jason, though, is an almost tragic figure in that he's motivated by a child's desire for revenge. Born deformed and probably a little mentally handicapped, he was mistreated and generally abused by his peers, and cruelly murdered through ignorance and neglect. That doesn't make his unending kill-krazy rampage right, but you can understand why he does it... especially after his mother's death drove him even further into insanity (as if DYING didn't fuck him up enough in the head...).

Anyways, yeah... I can't really justify wanting to watch this movie any more than I can justify having watched all the others. All I know is that usually every even numbered FRIDAY THE 13th is pretty good, while the even numbered ones make no fucking sense whatsoever. JASON X is actually pretty brilliant if you look at it as more of a self-parody than an actual horror movie... and, as Parrish pointed out, it's going to be pretty hard for Jason to top killing an entire space colony... I mean, he could kill teenagers all year and still only fill a barn with bodies.

MONSTERS vs ALIENS

http://www.apple.com/trailers/dreamworks/monstersvsaliens/


A homage of sorts to 50's B-Movie monsters and aliens... it really just looks like another uninspired DREAMWORKS CGI movie. Like... not terrible, but not terribly good either. The only thing I really took away from this trailer is that Seth Rogan is a fantastic voice actor. I'd probably see this is nothing else was on that weekend, and I had literally nothing else to do... otherwise this really just only looks like bootleg worthy viewing.

TIME CRIMES

http://www.apple.com/trailers/magnolia/timecrimes/

A weird looking foreign film about a time travel gone awry. This actually looks pretty sick.

SEVEN POUNDS

http://www.apple.com/trailers/sony_pictures/sevenpounds/

Parrish and I saw this trailer when we saw QUANTUM OF SOLACE, and both got the same thing out of it: WHAT THE FUCK IS THIS MOVIE ABOUT? I have no idea.

TRANSPORTER 3

http://www.apple.com/trailers/lions_gate/transporter3/

After seeing that trailer, I can't believe that this franchise isn't based on a video game... because it looks like it's based on a video game.

I actually really liked the first TRANSPORTER, but the second one was a big pile of poo, so I'm hoping this one can make up for that. Either way, I'll see it for Jason Statham... THE BADDEST MUTHAFUCKER IN FILM, YO!

SPECIAL

http://www.apple.com/trailers/independent/special/

This looks pretty good actually. HANCOCK was really disappointing as a deconstruction of the superhero genre, but this actually seems to really get it. It's about a guy named "Les" who takes an experimental anti-depressant that he thinks gives him super-powers, so he decides the responsible thing for him to do is to become a superhero named "Special." (get it... he's LES until he's SPECIAL, ha ha ha... PUNS and SUPERHEROES are like peanut butter and jam!).

I'll see this.

VALKYRIE

http://www.apple.com/trailers/mgm/valkyrie/

I hate Tom Cruise as much as the next guy, given that he's a crazy douchebag jackass, and I really hate to support him in any way, but... he was funny in TROPIC THUNDER, and this Bryan Singer directed movie looks pretty sick. It's about an attempt to kill Adolph Hitler made by his own people. Like I said... I hate to support Tom Cruise in any way, but a good movie is a good movie.

SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE

http://www.apple.com/trailers/fox_searchlight/slumdogmillionaire/

I really like Danny Boyle, and he's responsible for making one of my favorite movies ever, SUNSHINE (for real... SUNSHINE is probably in my top five), and I got to say... I've heard nothing but good things about this movie, and the trailer looks EXCELLENT. I'd really like to see this.

LET THE RIGHT ONE IN

http://www.apple.com/trailers/magnolia/lettherightonein/

Hey, know what totally looks like a better vampire movie than fucking TWILIGHT? THIS ONE. Seriously, I think this Swedish film has got the right idea of how to go about making a Romance-Vampire movie... romantic, yes, but don't lose the spookiness! This looks like just the right amount of spooky and romantic to me! I'd like to see this, but probably won't get the chance, because the theatre will be filled with teenaged girls excited about seeing FUCKING TWILIGHT, featuring efeminate pretty-boys whose "pale skin sparkles like diamonds in twilight." *Shudder* Yeah, they made the right choice.

THE UNBORN

http://www.apple.com/trailers/universal/theunborn/large.html

A film filled with creepy looking Japanese-Horror movie shit, written by David S. Goyer, who has proven that he can either be really good... or fucking GOD AWFUL depending on who's directing. "Can you be haunted by someone who was never born?" APPARENTLY YOU CAN! HA HA! Again... shit like this is another guilty pleasure of mine.

PLAGUE TOWN

http://www.apple.com/trailers/independent/plaguetown/

More spooky shit.

MY NAME IS BRUCE

http://www.apple.com/trailers/independent/mynameisbruce/

I'd sort of go see this just to see Bruce Campbell in person... though I do like the line, "You need someone to face a heinous monster, and stop him in his tracks..." Heh heh... no one uses the word "Heinous" anymore.

GRAN TORINO

http://www.apple.com/trailers/wb/grantorino/large.html

Clint Eastwood once again proving that you're never to old to be a FUCKING BADASS! A bitter, racist, and hardened old man stubbornly refusing to admit his age, learns the error of this ways when he becomes a vigiliante to protect his chinese neighbours from a vicious street gang. Clint Eastwood is still the fucking man. This movie looks pretty great.

UNDERWORLD: RISE OF THE LYCANS

http://www.apple.com/trailers/sony_pictures/underworldriseofthelycans/high.html

God that's a terrible subtitle... another guilty pleasure of mine, is that I like UNDERWORLD, which is hard to justify after the second movie fucked it up (that Super-Vampire guy was fucking cool though). I don't think we really needed a prequel though.

NOTORIOUS

http://www.apple.com/trailers/fox_searchlight/notorious/

A biopic that I actually give a fuck about. I's gotta represent for Biggie, yo! Still... I can't believe they made a movie about Biggie before they made a movie about Tupac. That seems fucked up somehow. Either way... this movie will have a great soundtrack.

THE SPIRIT

http://www.apple.com/trailers/lions_gate/thespirit/

I can't help but feel that this film will quite possibly be fucking unwatchable. It looks like Frank Miller jerked off onto celuloid. Good GOD. >_<

HOUSE

http://www.apple.com/trailers/independent/house/

Is this a remake of the 1980's movie HOUSE (I can't actually remember what that movie was about...)? Or is this a really off the wall theatrical re-imagining of the popular TV medical drama, HOUSE?

Thursday, October 23, 2008

MY TOP FIVE ANIME: AMENDMENT

I fucked up on my list of Top Five Anime. I spent a lot of time and thought doing the Manga list, and then I sort of rushed through the Anime list. ^_^;;; So I'm going to amend it right now... After much deliberation, there are only things things that really remain from the original list... COWBOY BEBOP and AKIRA.

FLCL



I somehow overlooked FLCL while I was writing up my original list, and it hit me a few days after on the bus while I was listening to the OST (Original Sound Track) on the way to work. I don't know how it slipped my mind, but FLCL is definately in my top five.

Why FLCL? Probably because it is the most wholely original thing I've ever seen. FLCL is almost like DEADWOOD in that it's an intellectual exercise at times, and requires multiple viewings to "get" it. On the surface, everything about it seems random; complete CHAOS. From the way things just seem to happen with no context, to the often DRASTIC changes in the animation style, FLCL doesn't appear to be about anything at first... it's constantly movie, and the pace is breakneck at best, with explosive action ever 2 minutes. It's actually the quieter moments in the show that seem out of place when they occur. Everything happens so fast that you can barely keep up, so on your first viewing you have no way of processing what's going on; instead you're wowed by the visuals, entertained by the comedy, and excited by the action.

Upon a second viewing, you begin to sort out the chaos. You catch the small, subtle, plot points laid in admist the robots, explosions, gunfights, and guitar bludgeonings, and realise that it's actually a story about how fucked up adults are and how children should be in no hurry to lose that innocence and imagination (according to the commentary, that's what the whole "smoothing out the wrinkles" thing means... apparently the wrinkles in your your brain are what defines who you are as an individual, so to take over the world MEDICAL MECHANICA builds a giant iron to smooth over peoples individuality and turn them into robots).

It's kind of hard to really explain the genius of FLCL... you have to actually watch it... TWICE... to get how fucking good it is, and then you'll want to keep rewatching it, because it never gets old.

MACROSS PLUS



I have no idea how I overlooked MACROSS PLUS... this show was so important to my becoming involved in anime, and actually changed the way I look at science fiction in general.

MACROSS PLUS has all the staples of a good sci-fi story; robots, action, explosions, an AI run amok, and philosophical musings into the nature of the human soul. But the other thing it has is romance. It's the first sci-fi action story where I've actually cared about the characters, and realized that all the robots and action are secondary elements in what is really a story about what makes people drift apart and how love isn't always perfect and beautiful; that it can also be painful and messy. It's also about the compromises you make as a adult. Myung gives up her dream and it nearly destroys her, while Isamu lives the carefree life of a teenager in constant pursuit of his dream; alienatinng everyone around him as a result. Gaul sacrifices the most, though, giving up his friendship, humanity, and then finally his life.

Now, while MACROSS PLUS stands pretty well along, it is part of the massively popular MACROSS (ROBOTECH) franchise, and has one of that franchise most definative plot points... music. Every single MACROSS spinoff, prequel, sequel, or re-imagining somehow revolves around music, and in most cases it's pretty heavy handed, or shoehorned in (Minmei for example... but the most baffling was MACROSS 7 in which the Veritech's are actually powered by rock and roll. >_<). MACROSS PLUS is the first of this series where the music as a McGuffin actually works seamlessly. Of course, it helps that this is probably one of Yoko Kanno's most definative soundtracks. NINJA SCROLL



NINJA SCROLL is probably what actually got me interested in Japanese culture, as it was my first real exposure to the history (sort of) of Japan. Beyond that, I really don't know what to say. I'd only been watching anime for, what, a year or two on SCI-FI Channel and TELETOON, and the thing that intrigued me the most about anime was the excessive sex and violence; and at that point, and possibly to this say, NINJA SCROLL was the most graphic thing I'd ever seen, while still being somehow poetic and beautiful. Having rewatched it numerous times, I can't help but be astonished by how fucking TIGHT it is from a storytelling standpoint. Nothing is wasted. The movie almost literally perfect to me. I cannot find a single flaw.

Above is the best fight scene ever put to film, though I wish I could have found the english dubbed version, as it remains one of the best dubs ever produced, and has my favorite line of all time. Genma bursts forth from the molten gold and grabs onto Jubei's leg, burning him with his vise-like grip. Jubei turns and raises his sword, screaming his parting words at his immortal, unkillable foe, "GENMA! BURN IN YOUR GOLDEN HELL!" before slicing his arm off and condemning him to eternal living hell, frozen solid as a living gold statue.

SICK.

Anyways, apologies... these three, plus COWBOY BEBOP and AKIRA are my five favorites of all time, just narrowly beating out the others, which would be six, seven, and eight.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

MODERN MUSIC, 80'S CARTOONS

Look At Me (When I Rock Wichoo) - Black Kids



I got this off of Corey Lewis LiveJournal.

I'm not even going to pretend I'm hip enough to know who these kids are... frankly, I thought this video was actually old as fuck, until I saw the 2008 logo at the end. The song has a very late 80's, early 90's feel, and the throwback matting they used in the video also gave me that impression, but now I see it was all a clever ruse... an emotional time machine that manipulates your feelings of nostalgia through a non-stop barrage of 80's cartoon references.

I'm pretty sure I didn't get them all, as a lot were cleverly disguised, but the opening is obviously taken from the opening to DUNGEONS AND DRAGONS (where they get abducted on the theme park ride to another dimension), the first logo is based on the logo from SILVERHAWKS, the blonde girls scarf and helmet are from SPEED RACER, the guy with the visor and the guy in the dog suit are Han and Chewie, and I think the ship is from something else; it looks familiar to me, and I think I had a toy of it, but I can't remember what it's from. The cars are from M.A.S.K., and the next logo is from BIONIC SIX, which the running gag is also from (Rock-1's power was speed), and the posing montage that follows is also from the BIONIC SIX opening (AWESOME show). The guy's sword is from VOLTRON (I think...), and I think the dog playing the guitar might be a reference to KID VIDEO, but I can't be sure, as I never saw more than the opening to that show. The next few references, if they are indeed referencing anything, I can't place, right up until the "Heads all turn at once", which is from THUNDERCATS (I like how they kept the Snarf tail gag as well... AMAZING). I'm not sure what the third logo is from... BLACK STARR maybe? I think the visor guy's flying might be from MIGHTY ORBOTS... and that's all the references I could catch.

If anyone can fill in the gaps or correct me on stuff I might have goofed on, please do!

Oh, and on another note... these kid's ain't bad. I sort for like their music.

*EDIT*

The spaceship is from GALAXY RANGERS, someone just pointed out to me. I can't believe I missed that... >_< I feel nothing but 80's cartoon nerd-shame for missing something so obvious.

**EDIT**

RSJ is totally right... I recognize the overexposed film footage and the temple after the "Silverhawks" logo as being from MYSTERIOUS CITIES OF GOLD. He's also right about the blond girls costume being from POLE POSITION... actually, all of the animation up until the car turns into the one from M.A.S.K. is from the POLE POSITION opening. I think there's even a reference to JEM in there when the dog catches them all in the music web... am I making that up? RSJ was also right on the third logo, which is from UYLSSES 31... there are other references from that as well (the guy standing on the pillars is also from the UYLSSES 31 opening). Also, the sword part I mistook for being from VOLTRON, is actually from the UYLSSES opening, and the three ships combining as well... LOTS of UYLSSES 31 in this video actually... I think that's the most love that show ever got, despite being AWESOME.

The depth of this video's nerd-references astonishes me... I'm so fucking in love with this video.

Friday, October 17, 2008

CASSHERN SINS: RETURN OF A HERO?



I was fucking around on YOUTUBE when I stumbled upon this... the trailer for the new CASSHERN series (the first episode of which I have watched). I wish this trailer was a little better so as to visually express how awesome this is to me, but it's a pretty short teaser.

CASSHERN: SINS is a... unbelievably bleak revisualization of the classic 70's anime series, about a young man who becomes a cyborg hero that battles robots that have become self aware thanks to his father, and go to war with humanity. SINS recasts Casshern not as humanities savior as in previous incarnations, and not as a cyborg, but rather as an android mercenary in service of Blaiking Boss (aka The Black King from the previous series), who is assigned to kill Luna, humanities savior, which he succeeds in doing... only to bring about the end of the world. 100 years later, the Earth's enviroment is hostile to both humans and robots alike; the air is poisonous to humans, and corrosive to robots. Humans are all but extinct, and robots are in constant disrepair, having taken to cannibalizing each other for parts. It is now that Casshern, the destroyer of the world, returns, with no memory of what he has done, or where he has been for the past 100 years. Now, in this dark and violent world, all he can do is seek the truth behind his existance, and redemption for his sins.

It's hard to really get an impression of what this series as a whole is going to be like from the first episode... especially if you're already a fan familiar with the previous incarnations of Casshern; that first 5 seconds of Casshern telling Luna he going to kill her is pretty shocking. The fact that the crux of the show is the mystery of what has happened to the world and Casshern's amnesia also leaves your head spinning, as everything is a mystery yet to be solved. All you really get out of the first episode is some amazing fucking action, and an overwhelmingly BLEAK atmosphere. Soooooooooo bleak.

At any rate... I'm in for the long haul. This is the kind of anime I live for... slick animation, cool character designs, awesome robot murdering action, and a conflicted hero more monsterous and violent than his enemies.

I should really write a thesis on the difference between the Japanese idea of what a superhero is VS the North American idea of what a superhero is...

At any rate, here are some clips of the previous incarnations of this robot killing franchise.


SHINZO-NINGEN CASSHERN (Neo-Human Casshern), circa 1973. Unfortunately, beyond this excellent opening, I have absolutely no nostalgia for this show, as it was never licensed in North America. But I've got to say... for 1973, this is a pretty tight looking show. Casshern, even from his inception, has one of the best characters designs I've ever seen; even 35 years later he can still rock that collar, and the helmet/facemask combo is pretty sick, even moreso in that the facemask opens and retracts, allowing him to have expression when not in "MUST KILL ROBOTS" mode. Frankly, the initial setup for the show of a post apocalyptic world where rogue AI's subjugate humanity, and their savior is a cyborg that violently rips them in half, is pretty intense for the 70's. I also like the very 70's anime idea of having a mechanical dog that transforms into a plane and breaths fire and is named "Frienda." Oh, and his mom was a mechanical Swan. ANIME!



I don't know why this opening was never included when this OVA was released over here. Probably because it didn't have an awesome theme song, like the original 70's show (complete with children's choir in the background). This OVA was actually one of the first anime I ever saw, back when SCI-FI Channel was still doing SATURDAY ANIME, in the mid 90's, and was directed by Umetsu Yasuomi, who is still one of my favorite directors/character designers. Casshern gets a pretty sick redesign, which keeps pretty close to the all but perfect original design, as do all the other characters. Having never seen the original show, I can't tell you how faithful a revamp this was, but I have a felling they pretty much stayed true to the original, but condensed the entire thing into an easily digestible 4 episode OVA. Some seriously sick robot killings, and one of the best final battles in all of final battles (though it still doesn't beat the end of NINJA SCROLL).



This is actually probably the only part of this movie you need to see... it was a FUCKING MESS. It was beautiful to watch, and one of the more ambitious Japanese films to be made, no doubt, but that just makes it a beautiful FUCKING MESS. Seriously, I just did not get what it was about. They took a simple, hard to fuck up concept, of a kid inheriting a horrible legacy from his father, forcing him to sacrifice his humanity to become a robot murdering cyborg hero, and they turned it into some psuedo-arty pile of shit. But the above action sequence, where Casshern tears apart an entire robot army by himself? WORTH IT. Just not the rest of this steaming pile.

As an added bonus...



HURRICANE POLYMAR! Also directed by Umetsu Yasuomi, it's probably one of my favorite anime ever... I wish I had it on DVD, so I could rewatch it OVER and OVER and OVER. It was this nice blend of violent superhero action and SCOOBY DOO-ish humor. Plus it has one of the best lines ever, "Cat-Sharks WILL die, and Hurricane Polymar will kill them!" Said completely without irony. AWESOME.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

MY FIVE FAVORITE ANIME AND MANGA: THE CHRIS BUTCHER CHALLENGE

Internet celebrity, local comics retailer, and BFF Chris Butcher Facebook challenged me to blog about my five favorite anime and manga... which is no easy task.

I have watched... a LOT of anime. And I have read... a LOT of manga. On and Offline, printed or scanlated, legitimate and bootlegged (that's a whole other blog post). Admittedly, not all of it is great, and not all of it is good, but it's still a LOT of manga/anime to try and quantify. But I will try...

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MY TOP FIVE MANGA (In no Particular Order)

I'm not going to try and put these in any sort of order... I can't specially say there is any one of ANYTHING that I love definatively more than anything else, so I'm just putting these down in the order that they come to me.

1> SOLANIN by Inio Asano

This is actually a pretty recent favorite, and I've been meaning to get around to doing a review of it on it's own, but it's pretty safe to say that SOLANIN is probably going to remain one in my top five for years to come... or, at least, until someone licenses more of Asano's work in North America (NIJIGAHARA HOLOGRAPH and GOODNIGHT PUN-PUN are pretty amazing in their own right). There are many things I like about SOLANIN that give it greatness in my eyes... I like that it's a complete story (especially given the way that VIZ decided to collect both volumes into one giant tome), I like Asano's atypical, intricately detailed, art style (particularly his use of computer effects and lighting), I like his sensitive storytelling, and his offbeat sense of humor.

But that really stands out about his work is how contemporary and accessible it is; moreso than any other manga I've ever read, this is something that really bypasses the culture gap and speaks to things that everyone can understand. It's still set in Japan, and about Japanese characters, and has Japanese cultural references, but it's not done in a way that's so dense and alien that it would be off putting to someone that isn't familiar with manga. It's much close to an alternative graphic novel or an indie movie in it's tone and setting. The closest thing I can liken it to is SCOTT PILGRIM; a story about a group of 20 somethings on the edge of adulthood, dealing with their fears and aniexties about growing up.

SOLANIN really spoke to something in me when I read it, and though it's only been a week, it still stands out as something GREAT to me, and I hold it near and dear to my heart, and probably will for years to come.

2> BATTLE ANGEL ALITA: LAST ORDER by Yukito Kishiro

Ha ha ha... I'm not sure this is a controversial addition to a "TOP FIVE" list, as it's could be considered a pretty basic shonen manga... and a psuedo-sequel at that... but BATTLE ANGEL ALITA: LAST ORDER is fantastic to me. Kishiro's art is at it's best, with years of experience and experimentation behind him, and his storytelling equally as honed and matured, he takes characters that I had a fondness for, goes back and successfully reimagines and reinterprets them. I love the way he mixes character development, psychology, and philosophy, with kinetic martial arts action and well researched sci-fi/space opera. BATTLE ANGEL ALITA: LAST ORDER, to me, takes what started out as a pretty standard, only slightly above average, shonen sci-fi/action fantasy manga, and elevates it to something truely original and special.

3> KUROSAGI CORPSE DELIVERY SERVICE Eiji Otsuka and Housui Yamazaki

KUROSAGI CORPSE DELIVERY SERVICE is something that's a little tricky for me to quantify. It's a book that differs hugely in tone and texture from chapter to chapter, and is more episodic than most manga tend to be, though there is a more serialized story taking place in the background. At times it's can be grim and gorey, at others darkly comedic and offbeat. Whenver I'm asked what it's about by people I tell them, "It's SCOOBY DOO for adults." Short, episodic, offbeat mysteries solved by a group of entertaining and diverse 20 somethings just out of college. Much like SOLANIN one of the things that makes it so appealing to me is it's contemporary setting and how that somehow translates into greater accessability across cultural barriers to me. Something about more modern and comtemporary portrayals of Japanese youth culture really bridges that gap (possibly the greater influence of North American culture in modern day Japan, or possibly in that all young people generally have the same fears and concerns about the final crossing into adulthood?). Either way, every single chapter either intrigues and draws me in with it's perfectly paced storytelling, well researched themes, and original spin on a concept (my favorite remains the insurance adjuster that kills people with probablility), or it's offbeat and dark sense of humor. It also helps that the art is appealing and expressive.

4> PLUTO by Naoki Urasawa

This was actually pretty tough... Naoki Urasawa is probably one of my favorite mangaka, period, and there are MANY titles of his that I find astonishly good (HAPPY, MONSTER, 20th CENTURY BOYS), but if asked which of his series I like the most, I think I can definatively say that PLUTO is at that top of that list.

Now, most all of Naoki Urasawa's works I've read share a certain storytelling aesthetic that has become almost a formula; a small story that slowly grows into a huge conspiracy, with each chapter ending on a bigger and bigger cliffhanger to keep you constantly hungry for the next chapter. And PLUTO is no different from MONSTER or 20th CENTURY BOYS in that respect. Where it does differ though, and thus, what draws me in, is that PLUTO can almost be considered a proffessional fan-wank, as it's based on the story THE WORLD'S STRONGEST ROBOT by manga great, Osamu Tezuka, and features one of the World's most beloved fictional characters, my childhood hero: ASTRO BOY (Tetsuwan Atom).

It's not just that this is a darkly modern retelling of a classic story made to reflect modern day values and real world happenings; it's how obvious from the way the story is presented that Naoki Urasawa is himself a fan. There's a sense of reverence for the material and characters that can be felt on each page; the way he takes pleasure in teasing you with callbacks to the original story, and the quietly grandiose relish he takes in revealing a beloved character (in the first chapter he appears in, Atom is shown on a single full page spread with no dialouge, illustrating the impact that his appearance should have the audience, as it's what everyone has been waiting for).

The power of PLUTO for me is in that, not only is it an intellectually engaging exercise like Urasawa's other works, with beautiful, detailed art, expressive cartooning, and clear, precise, storytelling, but it's also a love letter to something that was important to him as a child, and because of that, it takes me back to that place I was at as a child, were I didn't just dream of being a hero, I dreamed of being a ROBOT hero, and friend of humanity. Though a dark and gritty, adult thriller, PLUTO is about to magically transport me back to a time when my eyes were wide with excitement, and my heart was open.


5> ??? Undetermined

Given that I only have one spot left, it's become incredibly difficult to narrow it down to any one manga... do I give this final spot to DRAGON HEAD, with it's compelling storytelling, and it's bleak world view? Or would I risk alienating PLANETES, with it's deft characterization, and philosophical examination of the human spirit? What about PARASYTE, with it's dark humor and engaging outsiders view of human nature? Or BERSERK, with it's peotic fusion of romance, philosophy, and graphic violence? What about ONE PIECE, which never fails to put a smile on my face? Or GENSHIKEN, with whose characters I can really identify with? GANTZ, EDEN, SUIKODEN III, PILGRIM JAGER, CLAYMORE... the list goes on. I guess I can only really have a top four if I can't narrow it down any more than this.

Ask me again in another year.

TOP 10 ANIME (In no Particular Order)

1> COWBOY BEBOP



Do I really even need to explain? COWBOY BEBOP was, by no means, the first anime I ever watched, or the first one I really liked... but it's still one of, if not THE, best. Brilliantly directed, with great art, great animation, and great writing. With it's offbeat humor, mature storytelling, memorable characters, and shocking ending, I never seem to get tired of watching it, and can always go back.

2> LUPIN THE III: CASTLE OF CAGLIOSTRO



Hyao Miyazaki could probably be considered his own catagory, in which I could quantify and definatively rank my favorite Miyazaki films in order, but as a stand alone, CASTLE OF CAGLIOSTRO is one of my favorite animated films ever because it gives you the contemplative and immaculate storytelling of a Miyazaki film, with the chaotic fun and daring do of Japan's favorite anti-hero, Lupin the III, my favorite anime/manga character of all time. Lupin is just a great character. He's fun and charismatic... at times a righteous hero, and at others a righteous bastard, but at no point can you NOT like him. CASTLE OF CAGLIOSTRO is just a wonderful film on all fronts, featuring a wonderful character.

Oh, and to be even more specific... it's go to be the STREAMLINE dub. Anything else is unacceptable to me.

3> MILLENIUM ACTRESS



Speaking of animation directors that could really have their own catagory, SATOSHI KON. Yeah, he could probably be considered the next Miyazaki in a way; a wholey original and insanely prolific film maker. Of his films, all of which I love, I have to say that MILLENIUM ACTRESS is probably my favorite. What makes it my favorite? I'll be honest... I'm just being completely arbitrary here... it's one of the only films to make me actually shed tears. And that's a very short list (three of them are also animated. :B). I chalk it up as a testiment to Kon's ability to make something so beautiful it's actually able to move my cold, robotic, heart with genuine emotion. All of his films and great and fill me with wonder, but this one actually moved me.

4> GIANT ROBO: THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL



EPIC. GIANT ROBO is just... isanely epic. It's so grandiose, with it's massive symphonic score, breakneck pace, and mind bending visuals (the Eifel Tower twisted and snarled, as Paris is riped apart as a choir cries, "DIESE IRADE!", and the Eye of Volger looks impassionately overhead). Heroic sacrafice, tragic deaths, savage betrayals, hidden agendas, family secrets, heroic destinies; GIANT ROBO has fucking EVERYTHING. It's just insane, frantic, pulpy, fun and excitement, and I just keep going back for me and more.

5> AKIRA



There's actually a whole lot of stuff I can put on this list, but I do actually have 5 things that edge out just about everything else in the world, and AKIRA is one of them. AKIRA is something I saw very early on in my early exploration of anime, back when all that was available to me was VHS recordings I had my aunt and uncle make when they had a US Satellite. WAAAAAAY back when the SCI-FI Channel was doing SATURDAY ANIME. Yeah it was cut and yeah it was censored for languege, but that didn't affect my fasination with this movie, and the subsequent fasination it sparked for more of it's like and for the culture that spawned it.

The detail in the art, the audacity and ambition of the animation, and just how fucking COOL psychic power battle could be... it was unlike anything I'd ever seen before, and is unmatched to this day in a number of respects... even by it's own creator. AKIRA is a very tough act to follow.

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Game set and MATCH, Butcher.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

ANIME OPENINGS FROM SHOWS THAT I LIKE (Part 1)

Seraphicgate was lamenting the lack of good anime lately, and I was going to do a long list of shows that I've liked... but it would have taken a long time to properly describe them. So, instead, I've decided to find the openings, and then do a little description, and let the shows sell themselves.

PARANOIA AGENT



See review below. I love this opening... it so simple, the the contrast of the upbeat song and the creepy image of characters laughing at you while floating, dreamlike, through various backgrounds, fucks my shit up.

BERSERK



Also, the opening form the AWESOME looking PS2 game... SWORD OF THE BERSERK was probably my favorite Dreamcast game of all time, and Zodd was proabably the most frustrating Boss of any game EVER.

BERSERK is one of the best anime and manga I've ever seen. It's an odd cross between shonen ultraviolence and poetic romance, about a man who continually defies fate, even as another man is swallowed up by it. I also like the fantasy world it inhabits where magic and monsters seem to be on the cusp of disappearing from the world and becoming epherial legend. Gattsu (Guts, Gatts, whatever pronounciation) is one of the most bad ass, and most complicated, characters I've ever encountered

GENERATOR GAWL



This is actually one of the few anime that I recomend the dub specifically, as the dub signifigantly deviates from the sub script to create something unique, contemporary, and way more accessible and original than the original script. It's a great take on the Japanese idea of what a superhero is. I... LOVE the Transforming Hero genre, and the idea of transformation itself fansinates me... particularly as portrayed in GAWL. The idea that becoming is hero is painful and that there is a lose of control and humanity. The portrayal of a hero that is as monsterous and frightening as the creatures he fights... is awesome to me.

Also, this theme song has been on my MP3 player for 4 YEARS.

NOIEN TO YOUR OTHER SELF



One of the more innovative, original, and contemporary shows that's come out... uuuuuuuh... EVER. You could almost swear it was written by Warren Ellis, as a huge part of the shows premise deals with Quantum Theory and it's practical application. NOIEN also has one of the better female protagonists I've seen in any show, as Haruka, while having no outwardly physical power of her own with which to fight, is never, at any point in the series, helpless. In fact, she's probably the strongest character in the show, as she's the only one that proactively deals with her problems, and solves her own disfunctions, while all her friends are crippled by them.

INFINITE RYVIUS



This show was basically LORD OF THE FLIES in space. It was this really clever and serious hard sci-fi show about a large group of kids that get abandoned in space after a terrorist attack kills all their adult supervisors and leaves them on the run from an unknown enemy. Soon society starts to break down as the kids are forced to grow up too fast. Hard choices are made, and not a single character is unleft emotionally unscarred, as everyone slowly loses their minds giving into peer pressure, emotional pressure, and external pressure. One of my favorite parts of the show is how they stress how ridiculous the concept of a giant humanoid robot would be, and how space battles would be nothing like in anime, but would actually be really show, tedious, and involve a lot of math.

REIGN THE CONQUEROR



A really odd take on real life historical figure Alexander the Great (ALEXANDER SENKI in Japan), this paticular version combines historical fact with outlandish fantasy, creating a hybrid the likes of which has never been seen before. If nothing else, I just LOVE Peter Chung's (AEON FLUX) art direction and character designs... the guy has a style that no one else in the world has. I liked the portrayal of Aristole as a manipulative villian, and Plato as a genius that figured out Quantum Theory and transcended humanity after creating a Quantum Computer called the Platohedron, and how it's Alexanders ability to subconciously control the Platohedron that allowed him to conquer half the world by manipulating fate in his favor. It's all very weird and abstract and very AEON FLUX-y.

WITCH HUNTER ROBIN



The thing I liked about this show was that it was sort of a combination of ANGEL and BUFFY, but only the good elements of both... a weird hybrid of supernatural thriller and 80's detective drama. The art direction was also pretty excellent, and I like the character designs a lot. Also, I like the shows one homosexual character (or, at least, the english dub directors decision to cast it that way), which was very true to what it's like to be a closeted homosexual in Japan (it's alright as long as you're married and have a kid that grows up to resent you). The show is full of twists and turns, betrayal, double crosses, and everyone in the show is pretty intelligent and on the balls. It's a smart and mature show that doesn't need to resort of excessive sex or violence to be smart and mature.

I find this opening very much gives you a good idea of the emotional spectrum that the show covers, showing Robin's pain and longing, but also her lighter side in the final seconds, with a quick montage of her being a cute, but eccentric, teenage girl.

ERGO PROXY



I actually went with the trailer instead of the opening, as the show is way to complicated for me to express in a short period without spoilers, and the opening doesn't give much of a hint as to what the shows about, or how FUCKING GOOD it is. ERGO PROXY is one of the overall BEST anime I've ever seen... it's this weird, dark, gothic, Euro-sci-fi story by the same director as WITCH HUNTER ROBIN (which explains why it features another strong, goth-girl, protagonist). As mature and dark as the show is, though, it also has a really odd, black, sense of humor about it, which plays heavily into two episodes... a clip show which is structured like a cheezy game show, but the stakes are nuclear armaggedon if the main characters can't remember or figure out what it is that been going on for the past 13 episodes; and another episode where they encounter a Disney like figure that has Godlike power over the world he's created for himself. The series also has one of the more truly adorable characters I've ever seen in Pina, a cute psuedo-sentient robot girl who is SO ADORABLE that it actually becomes creepy.

.HACK//Sign



This show has one of the best soundtracks I've ever heard, period...

I don't usually go for dialouge heavy anime like .HACK//Sign, but the shows so complicated and character driven, I found it really engrossing, and the direction, along with the way they used the aforementioned excellent soundtrack, manages to have every episode build and build, until it's nearly a dirvish of action and emotion, and then ends on a huge cliffhanger. I also like the idea behind the show of people interacting solely through the RPG setting of THE WORLD, and the background elements of the world using humans as part of a larger program to create a perfect AI through the observation of human interation on a massive scale, and the idea of the program in charge of nurturing that AI trying to emotionally cripple it by trapping an emo-kid in the program (Tsukasa is sooooooooo fucking emo... but with good reason, as you slowly find out through the creepy flashbacks to his/her life outside the game). The only weakness that the show has is that it's part of a franchise, and thus you don't get the full effect until you play the games... which I just don't have the patience for. The show itself is mostly self contained, as long as you don't give a fuck about what happens to Aura or Morganna... which I really didn't.

That's all for now... I'll do more some other day.

PARANOIA AGENT: Satoshi Kon... WHY ARE YOU SO GOOD!?!



I have to give it to ADULT SWIM... they sure know how to cut a trailer.

I'm actually a little ashamed to admit that, despite being a huge fan of Satoshi Kon's works (all of which I own now... he's the only director who's movies I will sit through subtitled). PERFECT BLUE, MILLENIUM ACTRESS, TOKYO GODFATHERS, and most recently, PAPRIKA... all of them are probably among some of the greatest examples of why you should RESPECT anime as a valid and mature storytelling medium. And Satoshi Kon is one of those rare directors that can use this medium to do more than just make a movie... he makes elevates it to ART.

See... one of the things that's always struck me about Satoshi Kon's films is that they don't actually need to be animated. Especially TOKYO GODFATHERS, which didn't even have Kon's usual themes of fantasy, unreality, and psychology; there is nothing in that movie that could not have been done in reality. So why animate it? Or any of his films? Almost all of them could just as easily have been done live action, especially in this new age of digital filmaking. Animation is a long, hard, and expensive process by comparison. So why go through the trouble to animate stories that have more in common with low budget indie character studies than high budget escapist fantasy?

Because it's art. Satoshi Kon is a genius not just because he's a master storyteller, but because he's a master animator, who understands how to portray, with either subtlety or exaggeration, the full range of human expression. His observation of motion and emotion is, frankly, astounding, and brings something to his storytelling that an actor might not be able to. That he is an animator means that he doesn't have to direct an unreliable human actor and rely on their performance to get across what he he sees so clearly in his head... he can create what is in his imagination far more clearly and more gracefully than you could ever achieve in reality.

But I digress... the real reason I'm here is to talk about PARANOIA AGENT, which is an interesting experiment for Satoshi Kon; a 13 episode TV show.

PARANOIA AGENT is a series of episodic character studies about people under extreme emotional duress, with a serialized plot in the background connecting everything together, which allows for a more decompressed story arc told through what amounts to a series of short films.

Feeling the pressure of deadlines and peer pressure within her office, designer Tsukiko Sagi walks down a dark and lonely street on her way home. Her paranoia mounts as the darkness begins to close in, and she imagines she's being followed. She runs and falls, relieved that it was only her imagination... only to be attacked from behind by an elementary student wearing in-line roller skates, and carrying a bent, golden baseball bat. This is how the urban myth of violent attacker, Shonen Bat (Bat Boy, or Li'l Slugger in the dub) is born.

The series follows the investigation into the Shonen Bat attacks, as he appears to be attacking people seeming at random, with only a thin thread connecting them. People secret lives and daily pressures are examined, as Shonen Bat's attacks become more prolific and his power grows as he feeds on the paranoia and dark thoughts of society, until he is finally too powerful to be denied.

PARANOIA AGENT is apparently a mish-mash of unused idea's that Satoshi Kon failed to find a place for in his other movies, and investigates some of the same themes; losing oneself in fantasy, multiple personalities at war with each other, abstract idea's becoming reality, the darkness that resides deep within the human heart (the one episode about the child that finds out her father has a secret camera in her room was ESPECIALLY dark)... betrayal, lose, regret, sadness, suicide, insanity, time travel, reality and unreality... there is nowhere Satoshi Kon won't go, and nothing he won't touch.

That's not to say there isn't humor... PARANOIA AGENT is a surprisingly balanced series and can even be considered a black comedy at times. One of my particularly favorite episodes is one about three people that meet on a Suicide BBS and arrange to meet in person so they can all die together. One is an old man, called "Fuyubachi", one is a younger man, called "Zebra", and the last, which is a shock to the other two, is an eight year old girl, called "Kamome." Despite the premise of the story, it's actually one of the more ridiculous, offbeat, and heartwarming episodes, as the two older characters, quite responsibly, try to dodge Kamome, all the while trying to commit suicide themselves (quite incompetently), without involving her. In the end they're brought together even as they try to die. Another element that I like about this episode, which also factors into Satoshi Kon's other works, is his willingness to have homosexual characters and not portray them as offensive stereotypes or comic relief, but as real characters (it's hinted that Zebra is gay, and if you know anything about Japanese society and their treatment of homosexuals, it helps in understand why he'd probably want to commit suicide).

In terms of animation, PARANOIA AGENT probably could not look any better. The art direction, character designs, and animation (expect for one episode, which was more along the lines of what you average TV animation looks like), are all top notch, demonstrating Satoshi Kon's ability to manipulate the atmosphere of an animated show and create an oppressive feeling of paranoia and psyhological terror (particularly in the third episode, about the woman with dissociative personality disorder, which terrifying on an almost Hitchock-ian level). This, combined with the visionary music of Susumu Hirasawa, also creates one of the best anime openings I've ever seen seen... something is simultaneously upbeat and disturbing.

PARANOIA AGENT is what I love about anime... that it has the ability to do things that are challenging and unafraid of tackling themes that would give others pause, but all done in a way that's totally engaging and entertaining... done in a way that draws you in and captures your imagination, creating a immersive world of fantasy. And Satoshi Kon is someone what creates stories about the dangers of immersing yourself in fantasy and escapism... the irony of which is not lost on one who indulges himself regularly in fantasy and escapism.

Monday, September 29, 2008

REVIEW - BLACK SUMMER by Warren Ellis Art by Juan Jose Ryp



BLACK SUMMER is a recent mini-series written by Warren Ellis with art by Juan Jose Ryp, published by AVATAR PRESS.

Suppose that there existed, in our current world, 7 Guns; super powered human weapons, intelligent people that figured out how to give themselves seemingly unbeatable super human abilities, and used those abilities in an attempt to make the world a better place, and, for the most part, succeeded, gaining public support and eventually acceptance by the government. Now suppose that one of those 7, John Horus, suddenly decided to kill the President of the United States and demand that the country right itself or they would be at war... with him.

BLACK SUMMER is an interesting, dark, serious, and realistic take on the superhero genre filled with political outrage, ethical questions,and moral dilemma's... that unfortunately falls just short of being enjoyable to me.

It's hard to really pin down where BLACK SUMMER failed for me as a story... I mean, I really like Warren Ellis' writing, and this kind of twisted superhero story is usually right up my ally; but it was missing something for me. I think the main problem I had was that the story felt rushed to me. This is a concept I would have preferred to see told in a more decompressed way, establishing the characters and their world a bit more firmly... 8-12 issues would have been great.

I also think that it was entirely too plot driven, rather than character driven. There was no one I could identify with, and not a single likable character. Everyone was portrayed as being an arrogant, self righteous, bastard, and none of the 7 Guns, the books superhero team, supposedly made up of 7 friends from college, even got along or seemed to have any sort of emotional connection with each other besides mild loathing. A lot of the characters only interaction with each other was just boiled down to "Bitch," a lot of the time. I get that the story is supposed to be a bleak, critical, examination of the kind of arrogant, self righteousness need to proclaim yourself above man's laws, as imperfect as they may be... but I can help but think that could have been better served by contrasting it against the fact that these people as human and flawed as anyone else. There was a hint of a romantic subplot between two characters, and even a moment of tenderness, which was completely glossed over, and then forgotten.

In the end, it didn't feel like there was a sacrifice, or any sort of redemption, because I just didn't care for anyone; which is disappointing, because Warren Ellis is usually so good are writing amoral, monsterous, characters that still have a shred of humanity and empathy. DESOLATION JONES is a perfect example of this. I loved that Jones, as bleak as his world view was, was at least empathetic towards those people he had contact with whom life had shit on. There was a subtle sensitivity to DESOLATION JONES that just isn't present in BLACK SUMMER.

Another problem I had with the book... my biggest problem actually... was the art. I can't say that it was just outright BAD... but it wasn't great. Juan Jose Ryp can definately draw. His background are highly detailed and reminicent of Geoff Darrow's super detailed layouts, and his characters are solidly constructed... but his linework is chunky and has little line variety... it looks like it was inked with a sharpy, and the pages get really busy, and at times I found it hard to seperate foreground and background elements from each other. I liked the costume designs, but the characters themselves are almost impossible to tell apart from each other, particularly the females, who all have the same body types, big porn-star hair, and the same face. Male characters are similarly difficult to differentiate, as they too, all possess the same basic facial stuctures.

The most GRATING thing about the art though? There are a number of instances where a characters body languege or facial expression just do not match what is being said. People look angry when asking a harmless question, or their expressions are too extreme for what's trying to be portrayed. There's no subtlety or range. There are also times when the drawing is just outright BAD. The guy definately has potential, but he's also lacking in a lot of area's.

The coloring definately doesn't help... this is probably some of the most garish and cheap looking computer coloring I've ever seen, and gives the books mostly servicable art a really cheap look.

BLACK SUMMER is a book that feels like it could have been great, but somehow falls short. I can't say it's outright horrible, but it's definately not my favorite Warren Ellis work. It feels like he really phoned it in. There's a lot of interesting concepts and cool idea's, but it's missing heart and character.

STREET FIGHTER TRIBUTE: A Tribute to Street Fighter.




I had the honor of helping with Toronto comic publisher UDON's big STREET FIGHTER event, launching their newest contribution to the expansive world of STREET FIGHTER merchandising. It was, quite possibly, the best event I've ever taken part in (though I wish we had had more before the event to plan the tournament so it would be run more smoothly... hindsight is 20/20).

The space was great; we used the new party space at ROCCO's, referred to as THE PLUM, which was large and classy looking, and the staff was enthusiastic, helpful, and hard working. UDON provided a lot of banners and art to decorate, so there was no mistaking what you were there for, and the idea of having a tournament with some pretty sick prizes, was ingenius and fun, as it was very appropriate to the event and allowed for unprecidented audience participation. The event was well promoted, and a lot of people showed up, and a LOT of them wanted to play STREET FIGHTER. I lent my own TV to the event, and the BEGUILING had a big ass digital projector, which was AWESOME. Combined with the two giant arcade controllers that UDON provided, it was a pretty sick set up, and worked out really well in the final round of the tournament... which itself could not have gone better as we had two equally matched combatants going blow for blow, ramping up the intensity right up until the very end. They both pushed it to the limit and made it probably the most enjoyable part of the entire event for everyone involved.

As for the book itself, I got one for myself after the event for a great price, and it's totally worth it; a truely unique project which showed how impressive and dedicated to their product that UDON is... a giant artbook featuring over 300 new pieces of art from an epcleptic and varied array of artists encompassing every possible style and medium; from north American cartooning, to anime inspired, digitally painted, and even surrealism. The book comes across as a massive love letter to what is probably a huge part of my generations adolecense, full of passion and vigor.

A great event promoting a great book, which I recommend to everyone.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

SPACED: You Read my Mind.



Above: My favorite scene from SPACED (season 2 episode 2: Change). I swear to God, I've had this conversation almost word for word...

SPACED is a show about real people living a very close approximation to real, mundane, life, but shot in such a way as to make the mundane extraordinary. Two twenty something's, Tim and Daisy, find themselves homeless after their mutual relationships break down, and become fast friends. They decide to get a flat together when they see an ad in the paper, but take the ad very literally, and fabricate a relationship to trick the flat's super. Add a few absurdly weird secondary characters, and let comedy ensue!

I'd seen a few episodes of SPACED on SHOWCASE (it was on after TRAILER PARK BOYS, which seems appropriate somehow, as it could be argued that TRAILER PARK BOYS is almost the Canadian equivalent of SPACED), and I liked it, but wasn't in love with it. It's not a show where you can just walk into an episode and pick up on everything; it's a show that you really need to watch to get everything out of it. SPACED is more serialized dramady than traditional sitcom, given it's origins on the BBC and the nature of how serialization works across the pond.

Each season is 7 episodes, and there is a definite progression of story from episode to episode, rather than an unconnected string of shenanigans. Each season has a beginning and ending, and each character has an arc, growing and evolving. Which I enjoy, because I find that while I can enjoy a sitcom, I often find them tedious in the long run, as it's a lot of the same shit happening over and over again to the same people.

SPACED is definitely more dramady than tradtional sitcom. There are no snappy comebacks, no laugh track, and no sitting around an apartment waiting for people to come in... the comedy comes more from the situation, and the style of the show, which treats even the most mundane, ordinary event, like an action movie. As the show moves along, though, the reality of the show sort of starts to flux as things become more absurd and ridiculous, and your ability to suspend your disbelief slowly grows. One of my favorite episodes involves main character Tim (Simon Pegg), and his best friend Mike (Nick Frost), building and managing a robot for entry into ROBOT WARS (which was a popular BBC reality show that was called BATTLE BOTS over here), and I just found any scene where Mike treats the robot like a dog, hilarious.

Another facet of SPACED that appeals to me, is it's use of pop-culture. Not only are the characters obsessed with pop-culture and make references to things that they like; such as Tim working in a comic book store, and his love of STAR WARS (which is bittersweet as shown above); but also in it's visual references, recreating scenes from movies, or pulling in idea's or characters from movies (such as the two VERY MATRIX-esque agents from the first episode of season 2, or the scene were Tim burns all his STAR WARS toys), not to mention music cues... I literally almost CRIED when they referenced the LITTLEST HOBO. This use of popular culture as a sort of short hand to communicate with the audience on a very honest, familiar, level appeals to me greatly, because it's almost exactly what I do with my friends. Nerds communicate with other Nerds by quoting old Arnold Swartzenegger movies, or THE SIMPSONS, or obscure old TV shows from our youth. Everyone can relate to that in some way.

SPACED was thoroughly enjoyable to me, and quickly became one of my favorite all time shows. The DVD is very well put together with tons of extra's, such as the original audio commentaries from the British release, and new commentaries with special nerd-guests, as well as some a documentary which cleverly ties up the shows one loose end. Best 40 bucks I ever spent.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Black Lagoon - Red Fraction - Mell and My Anime Lamentations



Funimation has finally started releasing all of the GENEON shit that they scooped up when them bought up all the SOJITZ shit that ADV somehow lost, and all the GENEON shit that was just lying around when they went tits up, making Funimation pretty much the Kings of Anime... the OTAKINGS of Anime, even. :B One of the things that I'm actually quite interested in and am relieved to see is BLACK LAGOON: THE SECOND BARRAGE, as I bought and enjoyed the first season of BLACK LAGOON and was pretty pissed that I'd probably never see the second season.

BLACK LAGOON is basically just action pornography, a handy little expression I got from an utterly BRUTAL review of BAD BOYS II I read in the STAR a few years ago. Action Pornography is basically excessive violence and absurdly over the top action scenes (EX: when John McClain kills a helicopter with a car). BLACK LAGOON is aaaaaaaall about the action pornography... and that's GREAT, because that's what anime is supposed to be about. At least... that's why I originally got into anime.

I sort of miss the days of oldschool anime; the days of VAMPIRE HUNTER D cutting guys in half, or Jubei Kibagami stabbing a guy with a fucking log and then leaving him to burn in a wave of melted gold while screaming, "GENMA! BURN IN YOUR GOLDEN HELL!" You just can't see that kind of crazy shit on Saturday morning! And EVERYTHING used to be like that... at least, everything I saw. AKIRA, VAMPIRE HUNTER D, NINJA SCROLL, GHOST IN THE SHELL, SPRIGGAN, DEMON CITY SHINJUKU, IRIA: ZEIRAM THE ANIMATION, FIST OF THE NORTH STAR... crazy, violent, sex filled, exploitive shit that you'd NEVER see over here. The kind of shit that would have made Uncle Walt's anti-semetic head roll back and melt as if he'd just looked into the Arc of the Covenant. I miss those the days when Cat-Sharks would die, and Hurricane Polymar would kill them.

I think that may be part of why I sort of find myself falling out of anime again. It happened when I first moved to Toronto back in 2000 as well, though that was mostly due to financial restraints, it was also because there was just nothing that interested me... and I find it happening again. I'm not really sure it's because my tastes have changed; I still like all the stuff that I liked back when I got into anime in the first place; but that the industry has changed over in Japan, leaning more toward Otaku pleasing, Moe-esque, material; teenage power trip fantasy wank material about having awkward relationships with pre-teen girls in a the fantasy Japan of the 1980's, were people still wear uniforms and dance around their emotions. Where's the GUTS that anime used to have? The take-no-prisoners attitude that wasn't afraid in get in there and fuck things up a bit? Where have the Gattsu's (BERSERK), Kenshiro's (FIST OF THE NORTH STAR), and Jotaro Joestar's (JOJO'S BIZARRE ADVENTURE), gone? The by the balls heroes of my young adulthood that would solve their problems definitively by cutting them in fucking half with a ridiculously huge sword, or make their heads explode by punching them a few hundred times?

That's not to say that there hasn't been shows that have met my expectations, or shown a little class; but those have either had an oldschool mentality (like THE THIRD: GIRL WITH THE THIRD BLUE EYE), or have been more contemporary and given a taste of the modern Japan, or shown a wider world view (COWBOY BEBOP, THE BIG O, GIANT ROBO, FLCL, GUNBUSTER II, GENERATOR GAWL, READ or DIE, ERGO PROXY, SAMURAI CHAMPLOO, etc etc) than "Japan, 1985." Fuck, even PRINCESS TUTU managed to be a psychologically deep and fascinatingly original show that took a dismally pedestrian and derivative manga and elevated it to as close to fine art as TV anime can get.

Anyways, at the very least, this lack of good shit to watch is saving me money in the long run. I just miss the magic is all.

That said, BLACK LAGOON is a series I enjoy... there are a lot of obvious homages to various actions movies (one of the secondary characters is obviously based on John Woo, and one storyarc is obviously based on Robert Rodriguez EL MARIACHE franchise) in it's content and the excessive gunplay, horror show violence, and filthy fucking language. There's also a bit of deeper characterization, which is nice, as one character is forced to deal with the fact that she doesn't like the person she's become, while another has to deal with the fact that the world is a much darker, sicker, place than he'd like to believe it is. There's an interesting dynamic as they both simultaneously try to change each other; Rock tries to get Revy to deal with the darkness inside her and open up to the idea that she is allowed to be happy, while Revy tries to get Rock to admit to the harsh realities of the situation and place that he is in, and that there isn't always a silver lining to every dark cloud. The series is both humanitarian and nihilistic at the same time, examining both the bright, and dark, sides of human existence.

Anyways, all of this was brought on by the fact that I am currently obsessed with the theme song from BLACK LAGOON which is called RED FRACTION by a singer named MELL. It's that perfect sort of crass J-Pop that manages to somehow not sound like it came from the 80's, and the awkward English lyrics add a sort of rawness to it. The AMV above is a pretty good example of both the song and the anime. ENJOY.

Osamu O'Malley, or Brian Tezuka?



HA HA HA! Mal look so adorable wearing his little Tezuka hat. ADORABLE.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

WATCHMAN TRAILER


Haven't had any really good thoughts to post about in a while, but expect me to write a LOT about THE DARK KNIGHT... as soon as I'm sure I'm not ruining anyone's day.

In the meantime, since there's no way I can possibly spoil this for anyone, take a look at the WATCHMEN trailer (see left).

Now, see, embarassingly enough, I have yet to read Alan Moore's seminal, industry changing, politically charged, graphic novel. I know enough about it... I know the premise and key story elements, I know the characters, I've just never really gotten around to reading it (Jerry has informed me that a new hardcover will be made available soon, so I'll probably buy that and then read it, as the ABSOLUTE EDITION is way to pricey for something I don't really have strong feelings about... yet, anyways), so I can't really say I have any expectations for how they could fuck this movie up, beyond the usual ways that Hollywood usually fucks up movie adaptations of comics I like (GHOST RIDER anyone? I think GHOST RIDER is, like, the worst case scenario for any comic book movie... maybe the old CAPTAIN AMERICA, but you can at least forgive that for being so shitty because it was the 80's and they had no budget... GHOST RIDER had millions of dollars and modern technology and they STILL fucked it up beyond all recognition). That said... this trailer looks pretty fucking sick.

This is obviously really early stuff, as the movie is almost an entire year away, but I sort of like how artificial Doctor Manhattan looks, as it plays to the idea that he's turned himself into an idealized version of himself, and distanced himself from humanity. I've noticed a number of visual cues from the graphic novel (most notably the Owlship rising from the river), and I got a little chill listening to Rorscach's creepy little monolouge. That SMASHING PUMPKINS song is creepy too.

Frankly, I've gone from absolutely Zero interest in this movie to frenzied anticipation. I'm totally excited. Of course, I'll probably pay for saying that the next time I see Jason Azzopardi.