Thursday, October 23, 2008


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.


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.


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.


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


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.


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.


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


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


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...


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.


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)


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


Game set and MATCH, Butcher.

Sunday, October 5, 2008


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.


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.


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


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.