Rising Sun Reviews: Saving Anime, One Bad Opinion At A Time

alright i'll BITE what's the deal with valve rave the liberal
it's got robots
watch his-Coool! seha girls
(Aug 23, 2019 at 12:40 PM)Mariofan169 Wrote: alright i'll BITE what's the deal with valve rave the liberal
It's the anime of the decade.
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This is going to be a short one, folks. Danshi Koukousei no Nichijou, or the English title Daily Lives of High School Boys if you want to keep your tongue intact, is a 12 episode series adapted from the manga by Yasunobu Yamauchi and produced by studio Sunrise, famous for shows such as Cowboy Bebop and Love Live and for being the guru of the mecha genre with the likes of Gundam, Code Geass, and Valvr[redacted]. This series centers around a trio of…..well, high school boys (the leader Hidenori, the emotional Yoshitake, and the intellectual Tadakuni) and their interactions with their fellow classmates and the ordinary world around them in particularly unordinary ways. We’re talking pretending to be in an RPG, trying skirts on, hosting a Q&A session with the audience, the list goes on.

If you’ve read a manga volume before, there’s a good chance it had a comedic, newspaper 4-panel comic at the end, otherwise known as 4-koma. This series is basically that format but for 12 whole episodes, with each one comprised of several skits with different stories. The main specialty of Danshi Koukousei is taking typical anime cliches and turning the tables mach speed at them. What’s normally a character running late to school with a piece of toast in his mouth is now someone eating a full course meal while running. What used to be boring ol riverbank conversations about romance and whatnot is now characters throwing cheesy prose at each other while thinking “what the HELL am I saying”, so on and so forth. There’s also no fourth wall to speak of, as the high school students often times lament the fact that they’re in an anime and even talk to Yamauchi’s editor at one point. It also helps that the main characters are in an all-boys school, so the moe (a term used for overly cute female characters) element that’s oh so prevalent in slice of life shows is a thing of the past, allowing for more jokes about dumb guys doing dumb high school shit. It’s certainly filled with gut busting setups and punchlines, and I could probably say it’s one of the funniest anime I’ve seen in a while.

Buuuuuut it’s still very much a comedy anime, and comedy in this medium is something I have very mixed feelings towards. When I think of a good comedy show like, say, Seinfeld or Arrested Development, I can count on the characters getting into wacky situations while passing the time with witty banter and clever writing. But more often than not in anime, I’m only really amused by the situations, not the humor. I don’t remember that many Seinfeld quotes, but if I took the time to memorize a bunch of them down, I’m sure I wouldn’t break a sweat using them at least 4 times a day, but lines in comedy anime aren’t exactly as memorable. I’m sure the writing is something that feels more natural to Japanese speakers, but when translated to English, it just comes off as stilted and something people wouldn’t say in real life. When there’s not a physical gag on the screen, 90% of any comeback to a humorous thing someone says or does, like making puns or being creepy, is another character telling them to “Stop making puns/being creepy!” and just restating the first joke. This show in particular is like the Junji Ito (a famous horror manga artist I might cover...eventually) of comedy: for the majority of the story, I only feel slightly amused or creeped out, but when the end comes, I feel a big burst of emotion (in Ito’s case, fear, and in this show’s case, laughter). It’s not what I look for in the optimal comedy, where it’s consistently funny for the entire episode.

But that’s not to say you’ll enjoy it. In fact, while Danshi Koukousei did little to lift my disappointment with comedy in anime, I still enjoyed a lot of the jokes and the characters were endearing enough to stay. If you want to dip your toes into the genre, then this certainly isn’t a bad choice. It helps that the skits are so self-contained that you could just start and end wherever you please.

Also, I have a feeling that Sunrise will rear its ugly head veeeeery soon....
my friends told me about this during our daily lives as high school boys
they gave pretty much the same review lmao. it's like lucky star or whatever generic ass high school moe show but everything's flipped on its head.
i'll give it a try next time i want slice of life comedy
after i put out my next review i want to shake up things with an anime movie

if there’s any anime flickies you really want me to take a look at say so below
Fun With Despair
fullmetal alchemist conquerers of shamballa
street fighter the live action movie
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Tokyo Godfathers
Digimon the movie on YouTube for sure

this is not a movie rec
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DISCLAIMER: Full spoilers for Fullmetal Alchemist 2003 and, less so, Brotherhood below. It's practically unavoidable. If you're already familiar with one or both or you simply don't care, read on ahead.

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It’s not too often when you hear of a manga that gets more than one adaptation, and when you do, it’s usually a classic manga and the adaptations are well spaced out. Which makes it all the more unusual when you see a manga that gets two adaptations between *five years*. Fullmetal Alchemist is a beloved fantasy/supernatural series created by Hiromu Arakawa that received two anime series from Studio Bones (behind such series as My Hero Academia, Mob Psycho 100, and Soul Eater), one lasting from 2003-2004 and the other from 2009-2010. The latter, Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood, was one of my very first anime series and to this day is my all time favorite. I probably should cover it in full detail one of these days/years, but it’s the number one series I recommend to people getting into anime.

This, however is not that series. Brotherhood was actually made to be a 1:1 adaptation of the manga because of how unfaithful the first series was. You might have heard a term thrown around by anime junkies called “filler”, where a series catches up with the manga (usually shounen series like Dragon Ball or Naruto) and makes episodes with entirely original stories until there’s enough material to cover from the manga, and for the most part those episodes are terrible (keyword “mostly”, I’m convinced the episode with Goku and Piccolo driving cars is better than everything else in Dragon Ball). Well, not only is Fullmetal Alchemist ‘03 almost entirely filler, but the creator of the manga even approved it herself! Since ‘03 started airing 2 years after the manga started, Arakawa figured the anime would eventually overtake its source material, so she gave her blessing to the studio to branch the story off into its own thing, even designing characters specifically for this. Nothing better than official filler, huh? While this is arguably a better route than spacing out arcs adapted from the manga with dozens of filler episodes (looking specifically at Naruto with its entire filler arcs), you may recall that one of my past anime, Black Butler, tried the same thing and failed miserably at it. So, let’s go in with an air of caution.

The world of FMA, set in pseudo 1910’s Europe, revolves around the science of alchemy. No, not old medieval men in wizard robes trying to turn rocks into gold. Alchemy here is basically a form of magic for reconstructing and deconstructing matter; in other words, using the environment around you to make whatever you want. However, alchemy is restricted by a certain Law of Equivalent Exchange: “To create something, something of equal or lesser value must be given.” That hard truth is what brothers Edward and Alphonse Elric learn one fateful night when they tried to bring back their late mother with the forbidden technique of “human transmutation”. As a price for committing the sin of resurrecting a human soul, Ed loses not just his leg, but his brother’s body. In a desperate bid to bring him back, Ed sacrifices his arm to transfer Al’s soul to a suit of armor. They didn’t even revive their mother; in its place they summoned a malformed, mangled abomination that looked like their mother, talk about false advertising. The brothers burn their house to the ground to symbolize that there’s no turning back, and years later, Ed, now with a mechanical arm and leg, becomes a State Alchemist (an alchemist officially sponsored by the military) for one single purpose: to find the fabled Philosopher’s Stone, an artifact that supposedly bypasses equivalent exchange and could maybe, just maybe, bring Al’s body back. Little do they know, a conspiracy involving a group of artificial beings known as Homunculi is taking form around the entire country…

This is a trickier series to review, and all because of something I could have avoided entirely. It’s hard for me to not go into this without comparing it to Brotherhood, which is probably setting the bar way too high since it’s my personal favorite and I doubt anything will take that spot anytime soon. I will give ‘03 some credit: its beginning episodes are much better than Brotherhood’s, but only by default. You see, ‘03 adapts the manga with varying levels of filler until a certain point where they decided it would be best to part ways with its source material and go entirely original. For the episodes that actually covered the manga, they attempted to cover them faithfully and succeeded. Meanwhile with Brotherhood, the studio didn’t want to spend too much time animating the episodes already covered by the first anime, which could be a result of budget constraints, keeping a hard episode limit, or simply not wanting to bother with the redundancy. Thus, Brotherhood’s first 14 episodes with the same events that happened in ‘03 ended up being rushed with varying results. Some episodes were 1:1 in terms of similarities, while other mini-arcs were left half-baked due to a lack of character development, especially a particular gutpunch of an episode which doesn’t leave much time for its one-off characters to breathe before disaster strikes.

Some episodes from ‘03 which were manga chapter adaptations were even cut out altogether, and even if they weren’t critical to the overarching plot, they still forced certain characters to start on the wrong foot. For example, in ‘03, there’s a train hostage episode that’s important for setting up a major side character, Colonel Roy Mustang, as an utter force to be reckoned with, but as it’s cut in Brotherhood, our first impressions of him in the latter episode are that he’s an incompetent fool after an enemy’s rain power leaves his flame alchemy useless. Brotherhood also omits the origin episode for a character named Yoki who becomes more prominent as the show went on, setting up for potential confusion when he actually debuts. Buuuut this probably isn’t as big of a deal because 1. He’s a butt monkey whose only contribution to the plot is hitting one of the most dangerous Homunculi in the series with a car and 2. In the same episode he first shows up he gives a brief (albeit biased) recap of the episode that was cut. Long-drawn tangent aside, what I’m getting at is that ‘03’s beginning is better than Brotherhood’s only because it actually bothered to do the manga justice.

Before we start to tear this anime a new one, it is important to note that the characters brought in from the manga are not bad at all. Edward Elric, the main character, is smarter than the average shounen character and uses his vast pool of chemistry knowledge against his foes, often leading to smart and unique solutions to fights. As he’s also just a teenager, he’s frequently up at arms with himself over how to accomplish his goal in the most moral way possible and the harsh realities of the world. Between this and his more cynical approach, you could say he’s even more realistic than most shounen characters, making him a pleasant MC to follow. All of the other heroes have similar depth to them, and they’re all memorable in their own unique way, whether it’s Edward’s childhood friend Winry who gushes over mechanical stuff in the most adorable way, or general Alex Louis Armstrong, who’s nothing but a 2-ton pile of sheer *manliness*. Especially impressive when the character count is around 40 or so.

One other positive thing I’d like to point out is the atmosphere. Brotherhood was more of an epic, grand scale action-adventure type series, but here in ‘03, we have more of a dark, personal tale. Not to say that Brotherhood isn’t disturbing often, but ‘03 just doubles down on it; an entire village succumbs to a disease that turns their skin into stone, a daughter is forcibly combined into her dog by her father, limbs are ripped off left and right...these are just a sample of the messed up happenings, here. The story also makes sure to not shy away from adult themes such as the brutality of war, mass genocide, discrimination, and even rape at one point. It’s even enough to the point where Ed is visibly depressed by the end of the series. This series is certainly not for the light-hearted, but it definitely pays off by showing it’s not afraid to take the gloves off.

It’s when the story starts to introduce new characters that things get a bit...messy. First off, it’s important to note that after the point where ‘03 deviates from the manga, Brotherhood continued to build a massive cast of supporting characters that each had their own personal arcs and were mostly fleshed out, even the less important ones. Meanwhile, ‘03 sort of falls back on characters and settings that were already established, which feels like a real missed opportunity when there could have been more worldbuilding. The only original character who wasn’t a Homunculi (or their leader, more on that mess in a bit) is Frank Archer, a malicious colonel who screws around with the Elrics for a bit before turning into the Terminator. And yes, it’s as fucking ridiculous as it sounds:

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But it’s the main villain team known as the Homunculi, based on the seven deadly sins, where new characters really take front and center, and to say they’re polarizing is an understatement. Four of them, Lust, Gluttony, Envy, and Greed, are more or less the same as they were in the manga. One of them is based on an existing character from the manga, but at the same time, not exactly. While Fuhrer King Bradley, the ruler of the country the story takes place in, took the moniker of Wrath in the manga, here he’s instead known as Pride, but boy does it not matter in the slightest. This fact is revealed extremely late into the series, and when he has his only fight in the last two episodes, he hasn’t built up any menace or connection to the characters for him to really be much of a threat. (On a side note, said final fight was a miracle of sheer stupidity. For context, Homunculi could only be defeated if they’re sealed with a piece of their human remains, as they’re formerly people who were tried to be brought back via human transmutation. Well, not only did Bradley keep his remains, a skull in this case, in a safe in his own house, he gives the key to it to his *son* for no goddamn reason whatsoever, and during the fight, he rushes to his father to conveniently give him his skull, barely allowing the person fighting him to win. Bravo, Bradley. Bravo.)

Then there’s Wrath, the result of Izumi, Ed and Al’s alchemy teacher, trying to revive her dead child through human transmutation. Wrath comes off as more of a nuisance than an actual threat, as he’s a little kid whose only trait is wanting to steal Ed’s body so he can become human, if that would….actually work. Not to mention he can be rather annoying as hell sometimes when half of the things he does towards the end of the series is bawl over his mother….or rather, who he thinks she is. Meet Sloth, what was spawned when Ed and Al tried to bring back their mother. She was….alright. For the majority of her time, she wasn’t given much development, but she was focused on more right before her death. Most of my hate for her probably comes from the fact that, despite Sloth trying to kill him on multiple occasions, Al legitimately protected her because he thought she was his mother. Frustrating, indeed.

Now, I might as well hold off on comparing the main antagonist to Brotherhood’s because…..well, I don’t need to. Even if I watched this before Brotherhood, her many flaws would be as clear as day to me. Dante, instead of being the hard-rocking demon hunter from Devil May Cry (sadly) is introduced as a frail old woman whose only apparent connection to anything is being the teacher of the Elrics’ teacher and doesn’t do much of anything until she’s seemingly killed off a few episodes later. Before I go on, you might be familiar with a trope used by modern Disney/Pixar movies such as Wreck-it Ralph, Frozen, and Big Hero 6 that’s reviled by literally everyone: the twist villain. For the first two thirds of the movie, a certain character would act innocent and helpful to the heroes’ side, but in the third act, it’s shockingly revealed that he/she was actually the villain all along, with no hint of foreshadowing beforehand. There goes the equivalent exchange again; in order to gain temporary shock value, the story loses any sort of development for this character as a villain and investment for the climax, and sure enough, it’s the same case here. By the time there’s 7 or 8 episodes left, Dante returns and declares that she’s the leader of the Homunculi like it’s totally been hinted at the entire series ooooooo isn’t this shocking, guys? It just seemed like the series realized they didn’t have a main antagonist and threw one in at the eleventh hour instead of building one up throughout the entire series, and as a result, I just didn’t care when the final confrontation happened because Edward didn’t have any sort of connection to her. Did I mention that despite her being the main villain of the entire story, she dies offscreen like a wimp? I mean, it is hilariously fitting for a last-minute big bad, but it’s embarrassing all the same.

This lack of connection also applies to Conqueror of Shamballa, the movie that was meant to be the ending to the series. Long story short, the majority of it has Edward running around in real-world 1920s Germany, something which wasn’t shown until the second to last episode (so yes, Hitler is technically a FMA character), and that’s where the movie’s villain comes from. I wouldn’t have a problem with the main conflict having nothing to do with the show if the movie wasn’t, you know, sold as the conclusion to it. It’s basically a typical shounen movie under the pretense of getting Ed and Al back together after they were separated during the final episode.

But luckily, this series would be much more inexcusable if it weren’t for the aesthetics. Arakawa’s artstyle, while relatively simple, is very pleasing to the eyes and has a more realistic feel that sets the characters apart from other series. The animation, especially after the first few episodes is very crisp and fluid, especially for something from the early 2000s compared to today. The soundtrack isn’t quite as good or memorable as Brotherhood’s, but it’s still a wonderful orchestral collection that go along with each scene quite well. As for the four OPs, I kind of agree with Anituber Glass Reflection that as the animation gets better, the songs get….less so. The first OP, "Melissa", is a positive banger that’s brimming with early 2000s nostalgic energy, but everything after that is hit or miss, to say the least. It’s hard to talk about the dub without mentioning the….incidents from Vic Micgnogna, Edward’s English VA, but what’s not hard is to agree that he gives a very fine performance, with most of the other cast being just as good, and it’s certainly one of the best dubs out there (in fact, people say that it’s one of the *only* good dubs, which might have something to do with the fact that some anime fans tend to only find dubs good when they’re for a show in a Western setting, but that’s for another time).

I’m not at all saying that the 2003 adaptation of Fullmetal Alchemist is the worst there is. The characters are enveloping, the beginning is better than that of Brotherhood’s, and the aesthetical aspects just knock it out of the park. No, it’s not necessarily bad, just...disjointed. It’s the equivalent of a rebellious teenager who runs away from his parents’ house, only to have no idea what to do once he’s out. The idea of separating entirely from the manga was a very bold idea at the time, but in the end, the manga is what the series needed to survive. Not only are the new villains a complete joke in terms of writing and development, but the ending was rushed to hell and was the culmination of the story in the second half jumping from place to place with no real direction. But it’s still Fullmetal Alchemist, and there’s certainly some gold to be found here in the characters from the manga and the themes, so if that interests you and you’re not deterred by these flaws I just mentioned, then I’d say go for it, just….don’t expecting a fulfilling conclusion. I’ve seen people recommend newcomers to watch ‘03 up to Greed and then move on to Brotherhood, but even then, there’s plenty of drastic changes that would confuse you after the switch, but it’s up to you whether or not you want a better paced starting point. All in all, just like Ed’s half-mechanical body, ‘03 is shiny on the surface, yet incomplete.
Bonus stuff: My last review for the Shroom is now released, please check it out! https://www.mariowiki.com/The_%27Shroom:...un_Reviews
so i saw a whooooole bunch of anime movies in my attempt to clear my dvd backlog to justify buying some of them six months to a year ago without watching them, let’s talk about them

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The first movie I saw was the 2013 film The Garden of Words, directed by the acclaimed Makoto Shinkai. I can call myself well-acquainted with some of him more famous films, as I was overwhelmed with emotion by 5 Centimeters per Second and underwhelmed with hype backlash by Your Name, and this movie reaches a sort of middle ground. Garden of Words is about an aspiring high school student named Takao who hopes to be a successful shoe designer (no, he doesn't have a foot fetish....I think), but feels he’s bogged down by the monotony of a daily school life. As a result, whenever it’s a particularly rainy day, he skips class and takes a visit to a local park, where he whiles away the hours by sketching designs. But one day, he meets at his usual spot a woman named Yukari, a 27-year-old who’s grown similarly disenchanted with her job and escapes to the park to unwind with chocolate and beer. Having dreams for a more meaningful future in common, the two characters, 12 years apart, strike off an unusual friendship…..that’s unfortunately not explored much. While it’s true a relationship like this isn’t heard of in most media, especially anime, the story doesn’t really go into it in much detail, but it didn’t stop me from enjoying the majority of the movie. The first half, which has most of the scenes with Takao and Yukari in the garden together, is carried by moments of quiet introspection and strong character interaction. While their relationship doesn’t quite go to the romantic level, the dialogue is natural enough that you would have no problem believing a friendship between these strangers with such a relatively large age gap. This movie’s strongest area is without a doubt its gorgeous visuals, using many different techniques to sell its photorealistic backgrounds and genius lighting effects, making this probably the best looking out of Shinkai’s films. The movie also heavily uses rain as a theme and general aesthetic, which I’ll always approve of because goddamn does rain in anime look cool. The music is fine enough, it drowns out the movie at times and plays a bit too much but it’s good piano music that’s practically a mainstay of romantic anime like this.

And yes, I said romantic, because once the idea of Takao and Yukari comes into view, the movie just starts to become undone. The lowkey conversations of the first half were fine enough, but then the film decides to bring in a larger conflict when there wasn’t a place for it. Spoiling the second half here, but it’s eventually revealed that Yukari is actually a teacher at Takao’s school, and the reason she was constantly skipping school was because she was the target of constant bullying and gossip for….some reason. It feels forced in that it’s not touched upon beyond that, and by the time we see the mother of all melodramatic anime endings with Takao yelling at her through tears why he hated her for not opening up, I didn’t really feel anything from it from how rushed it was. After all, Garden of Words is only a whooping 46 minutes long, more out of Shinkai’s weird choice than any budget or adaptational constraints. It just feels like an unnecessary limitation more than anything, and if he had to stick to 46 minutes I’d rather have the mellow park conversations for the entire length, especially when later scenes such as one where Takao picks a fight with Yukari’s bullies do nothing but contrast with the otherwise relaxing tone of the movie. Not to mention that for the majority of the film, their relationship was implied to be pretty damn platonic, so to come right out the gate and say that this guy had a crush on this 27 year old all along with no foreshadowing comes off as extremely half-baked. Overall, Garden of Words is a visual marvel and the beginning shows some real promise, but ultimately, this movie is a classic case of biting more than you can chew and should have been about twice as long to justify the sudden drama. Or maybe this is just fatigue from realizing all of Shinkai’s films are the same, who knows. Check this out if you want, but I would much sooner recommend 5 Centimeters per Second, it’s only 20 minutes longer but manages to say a lot more with the short time it has and is genuinely phenomenal. For this, though, I'm giving The Garden of Words a solid 7/10.

Expect my next review to be up this weekend, where I’ll be talking about naked cyberpunk robots that aren’t, in fact, played by Scarlett Johannson.
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So I did watch Ghost in the Shell, and I attempted to understand it, keyword being “attempted”, but….before I get too ahead of myself, if you haven’t heard of it by now, GitS is a cultural milestone, probably the most significant anime movie released in the 90s. After Akira, this was the film that convinced the Western world that anime was a medium capable of infinite complex storytelling possibilities (hell, one DVD release had a quote from James Cameron of all people), and its cyberpunk themes and aesthetic sparked an entire movement of stories like it, including being the direct influence for The Matrix. And naturally, something with such popularity would spawn dozens of spinoffs, including a TV series, video games, manga, and an American live-action movie that made the world finally realize Scarlett Johannson was absolutely full of it. And of course, like for many other stories that trailblaze a whole genre, why shouldn’t the themes used in Ghost in the Shell seem overplayed after they’ve been refined and explored by everything after? The question that the movie revolves around is “At what point do you stop being human?”, as in the futuristic society the movie is set in, virtually everyone is on some degree a cyborg, whether it’s just a body part or, in the case of the main character Major Matoko Kusanagi, their entire body save the brain. It’s a rhetorical question Kusanagi is constantly haunted by, and it’s one that I’m not really engaged by. The “machine existential crisis” plot is one of the most prevalent for modern science fiction stories, never mind cyberpunk, and while these ideas might have seemed fresh when GitS was first released, nowadays it’s not necessarily new for me. Truth be told, there’s a good chance that I’m too young to really have a firm grasp on the philosophical mumbo-jumbo thrown around, but it’s not like the film’s pacing helped matters. While it’s certainly no Garden of Words in terms of length, it’s still not much better, sitting at a tight 87 minutes. There’s definitely some time alloted for existential philosophy and some silence for you to think things through, it’s not a priority compared to worldbuilding and trying to tell a story full of exposition. And even then, a lot of the details are left blank, leaving you to merely imply them, so you’re left to figure out what the world of GitS almost as much, if not more, than learning what message the film is trying to tell. All in all, I do want to aim to rewatch this in the near future, since I feel this isn’t at all a film meant to be fully understood in one viewing. Ghost in the Shell is definitely still a landmark film, so I at least think it’s worth a watch, though be warned that it’s a more mentally challenging experience; overall, I’m giving this one a ???/10.

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Another movie I saw was My Neighbor Totoro, probably the last major Studio Ghibli movie I’ve yet to see next to Kiki’s Delivery Service. I’m sure Studio Ghibli and Hayao Miyazaki need absolutely no introduction, having a wide repertoire of films that even people who hate anime with a passion could enjoy. Behind Spirited Away and maybe Princess Mononoke, Totoro is one of the more mainstream and well-revered of Ghibli’s works, to the point where the titular creature is the studio’s mascot, and I’m sure its accessibility is a major part of that. Totoro is, first and foremost, a children’s film, even moreso than almost every other Ghibli movie. It has a straightforward and easy to understand plot, any sort of conflict is almost nonexistent, and every scene is absolutely brimming with energy, but it’s not worth skipping just because it’s meant for children; like any masterful Pixar movie, this is a movie that anyone of any age could have a good time with. One of the consistent themes across all Ghibli movies is a profound respect for nature, and it’s no exception here, where the plot centers around two children meeting the movie’s namesake Totoro, a peaceful bear-like forest spirit. Some movies with this concept would have the characters be afraid of Totoro and his extraordinary nature, but here, he’s more portrayed in a sense of wonder and sheer joy. He’s effectively a personification of a child’s boundless imagination, an escape from the harsh world around them (especially when the movie’s set in post-war Japan) and an example of pure innocence. More than anything, the movie does a fantastic job in taking you back to a simpler time in your life, where you had no worries and the only limits were in your mind. I’m struggling to find anything else to say about this movie because honestly, it’s not hard at all to like this film, and there’s certainly not much reason to dislike it unless you like a film’s plot to be more substantial. If you’re just looking for a good comfort food movie, I can think of few better options than this, and overall, I’m giving this a score of 8/10.
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Happy Halloween, everyo-wait shit, I was too holed up watching horror movies to notice that Halloween’s over. That’s pretty unfortunate. But what might be pretty fortunate is Junji Ito not having that much adaptations. For those who don’t know, Junji Ito is not just one of my favorite craftsmen of horror of all time, but probably the most influential horror manga artist around today. He doesn’t derive horror from stereotypically spooky things like monsters or ghosts; he takes the most mundane things you see on a regular basis, like the shape of a spiral or a simple hole in the wall, and spins them into stories that fill you with dread and chill you to the very bone. Of course, it wouldn’t be effective if the art wasn’t good, but Ito’s drawings are perhaps *too* good. He takes agonizing care to draw every boil, every twisted feature of his macabre creations as detailed as possible, imposing a sense of terrifying realism. It’s that level of detail why his dozens of stories haven’t been translated to anime (keyword is anime, as his works are more than familiar with live-action; his most famous work, Uzumaki, has its own movie, and Tomie has been adapted into countless movies and TV specials), because half of the horror factor is imagining how his creations move, what colors they are. And if they’re animated for you, they wouldn’t look natural, right? For a long time, I thought there only existed two anime versions of Junji Ito’s works. There’s Junji Ito Collection, an anthology from just last year that’s apparently kind of shit. And next year will see the release of an anime adaptation of Uzumaki backed by Toonami, which is directed by the same person who directed the wonderful supernatural-themed Mushishi and composed by the same guy who scored my favorite western horror movie I never want to see again Hereditary, and my God, am I hyped for that one. However, after reading his Gyo for the first time, imagine my surprise when I found out there was an OVA adaptation of it, as recent as 2012 no less! But, being an adaptation of an Ito work, I still went in with low expectations, and….well, they were certainly met.

The thing is, I already don’t hold the original Gyo in high esteem, at least from the horror side of things. An attempt was certainly made, but it’s more of an experiment in absurbity than anything concretely horrifying. The basic premise is that boyfriend and girlfriend Tadashi and Kaori, while vacationing on the former’s island belonging to his uncle, encounter a most unusual sight: a fish on a mechanical set of legs. Then they run into the same thing…..but with a shark! A land shark! Again, the intent was certainly there, but when I see a robot shark breaking through a door, my mind is filled less with horror and more “holy SHIT this is awesome!”. Without giving much away, it does step up in the creepiness factor once it shows humans in the mechanical legs something to do with a virus that’s infecting them and the fish, but then it just sort of peaks there, with nothing much new tried after. Well, nothing scary, anyway, because it’s at this point in the story where Ito honestly just threw random ideas at a wall to see what stuck. The story just becomes this amalgamation of batshit crazy ideas, whether it be ghosts of Unit 738 victims, a circus popping up in the middle of the city with a human cannonball and everything, a zeppelin glider contraption….thing, it’s an exercise in unexpectedness. While Gyo is ultimately weak in terms of horror, I can at least appreciate the attempt of a more surrealist approach.

Fundamentally, the plot of the 1-hour OVA is the same, with the pacing virtually unchanged, but there’s still a bunch of odd little additions. Most notably, while Tadashi was the main character of the manga, this time Kaori is the central focus, most likely to redeem her after she whined for the entirety of the original, which is pretty welcome. Buuuut in an effort to pad out time (all the more confusing as they cut out a not-insignificant part of scenes with Tadashi’s uncle, a scientist who was a source for pretty much all of the backstory in the manga), they shoved in a trite subplot with Kaori’s friends, where one of them keeps having threesomes with two dudebros and this other friend resents and fights her over it, and it’s just so tacked on and contributes absolutely nothing to the plot. And yes, I said threesomes, because it isn’t horror schlock without fanservice. Well, except that Junji Ito never uses fanservice in his stories, just like how he doesn’t stick to conventional monster tropes, but for whatever reason, the Gyo OVA felt the need to shove in fanservice literally everywhere, from the aforementioned gangbang scene to one of the friends running from a land shark in nothing but a bra and thong and a scene where a land squid wraps Kaori in its tentacles in a rather suggestive position. Needless to say, it’s distracting as hell and takes away from whatever horror elements this OVA was trying to convey.

Not that those elements succeed, because man, this is a rough artstyle. I did have somewhat high hopes for the animation, since this was handled by the infamously high budget studio Ufotable, behind such lavishly animated series as Demon Slayer and Fate Stay/Night: Unlimited Blade Works, and sure enough, everything moves smoothly and the humans are pretty accurate to Ito’s designs. Not to mention, even if there’s no way you can make a god-forsaken land shark scary for me, having them in CGI is certainly more convincing than if they were hand-drawn. But my main grievances lie with the human walkers, the part of the manga where things start turning even remotely unsettling. Even if they stopped being scary after seeing them for the hundredth time, it’s hard to forget the first time you see one just because of just because of how damn detailed it is (be advised that the image is kind of disturbing and fairly graphic, so only click if you’re not squeamish). And then you watch the OVA, and I wouldn’t blame you if you thought you were watching the Hulk getting his stomach pumped. Obviously, Ito’s trademark intricacy is difficult if not nigh-impossible to translate to animation, which makes this OVA suffer all the more. It doesn’t help either that what should be the most shocking moments aren’t set up with any sort of tension; I think what the OVA was trying to go for was adapting one of Ito’s staple techniques, where he builds up to something particularly nasty on the leftmost page, leaving you desperately wondering what the character’s witnessing, and when you turn the page, you see it in all its horrific glory, almost putting you in the eyes of the character. It shows that this is a trick meant for manga, not anime, as in the reveals of the first land shark and the first human walker, they just instantly show up with no sort of build-up, leaving you more confused than anything.

All in all, the Gyo anime is the epitome of Jeff Goldblum’s immortal words: “You were too preoccupied thinking whether or not you could, you didn’t stop to think if you should.” The story’s a banana peel or two from a complete mess across both versions, but if you’re going to experience Junji Ito’s weirdest work, you’re really better off reading the manga. At the very least, the story flows a bit better and you can take in Ito’s morbidly gorgeous artwork, but even if you’ve finished it I still can’t say this OVA is worth the watch. It adds absolutely nothing worthwhile to the story and seeing it animated just sort of ruins the point. Feel free to call me a hypocrite, though, because I am extremely cautiously optimistic that next year’s Uzumaki adaptation will beat the idea that Junji Ito’s stories are utterly unadaptable, but for now, this OVA gets a score of 5/10 from me. Expect me to make a review of the Junji Ito Collection adaptation….not very soon at all, I haven’t read most of the stories adapted and I really don’t want a shitty anime to be my first experience with them.
@Draku Fish you
go spider expert yourself, draku
As a neat little project because I hate my neat little self, I decided to take it upon myself to review every single Naruto movie ever released. Yes, all 11 of them. Fuck. As a fan of both Dragon Ball Z and Naruto, I couldn’t help but notice that fans of the former were always talking about the movies in that franchise and there seems to be a wide, generally non-contested consensus on them, but fans of the latter almost never bring up any of the Naruto movies (besides the last two, but even then only because they’re canon). So, with little to no opinion on the vast majority of these, I thought it would be fun to go into them blind and tear them apart (not stopping to think that there's probably a good reason no one talks about these), starting with the first one, Naruto: Ninja Clash in the Land of Snow.

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Kakashi treats his team with a showing of a popular war epic movie, but in reality, this is a debriefing for a critical A-Rank Mission: The star actress of the movie, Yukie, is actually the true heir to the throne of the Land of Snow, a formally peaceful land that was taken over by her uncle Doto. At least, we’re told that it was peaceful, because in reality, we’re shown nothing about the Land of Snow or Doto besides the fact that the Land of Snow is a generic perpetual Arctic setting and we’re forced to assume that Doto is a very very evil man, even if we don’t know how he leads or what he does to his people. Anyway, Naruto, Sasuke, and Sakura are assigned as bodyguards for Yukie for two reasons, both of which aren’t explained with the best of clarity:

One is that Yukie holds a Macguffin with her called the Hex Crystal, which supposedly unlocks a treasure that Yukie’s father held before he was assassinated. This would make sense if this treasure was an all-powerful weapon that would help Doto with ruling the world or some shit, but as it turns out at the end of the movie, this crystal’s actually the key to a massive heat generator that instantly changes the Land of Snow’s climate from winter to spring. This is problematic on so many levels; first of all, we’ve seen no indication that the citizens of the Land of Snow were unhappy with the constant wintery climate nor if it used to be any different, so I’d bet that the Land of Snow had entire industries that took advantage of this. But Yukie’s father said “fuck it all, I’m going to accelerate what climate change would do instead of moving to somewhere warmer” and built a machine that, once activated, would pretty much bring chaos to the country’s economy and leave thousands of people in financial instability. In the real world, this would be the equivalent of some billionaire changing Alaska’s entire climate because he was pissed he wouldn’t be able to bring out his yachts any time of the year. Who’s the villain now, Yukie’s father who’s for all intents and purposes ninja Elon Musk? The second reason is why exactly it was imperative that this Hex Crystal was to be kept away from Doto’s dirty hands if the machine it activated wouldn’t have benefited him in any direct way. It would have made sense if Kakashi assumed as well that this treasure was a doomsday weapon, and it would have also made sense if Doto was a well-intentioned extremist this whole time who wanted to save the country he usurped from a curse of an eternal winter, but we can’t say for sure because nothing in this movie is developed that well! And of course, it makes Kakashi look all the more like a jackass when he endangers Yukie’s life when, after she was kidnapped, Doto finds out that Yukie was holding a fake crystal that Kakashi swapped out for the real deal. Seriously, what fucking gives, mate?

The second reason why Yukie’s being guarded is because she’s expected to confront Doto himself and reclaim the throne, which makes no bloody sense whatsoever. Not only does it put her in a state of deep pressure because of something where she had no choice in the matter, but just how exactly was she going to bring down Doto? She has no combat skills beyond the flashy special effects from her movies, and I have a sllllight hunch that Doto isn’t a type that could be negotiated with. It would have been much more sensible if Yukie stayed out of harm’s way in Hidden Leaf Village while the Naruto crew dealt with Doto and his goons themselves, but instead, when she’s found at a bar drinking her troubles away and refusing to go on the ship straight to the Land of Snow, Kakashi fucking knocks her unconscious with his Sharingan eye and brings her on the boat. It'd be like if Luke refused to rescue the princess, despite knowing he's the Chosen One, but Obi Wan uses the force to knock him out anyway and when he wakes up, he finds himself on the Millenium Falcon! It’s kidnapping with a few extra steps! I mean, I don’t like Yukie as a character that much (she’s described by her coworkers as a fantastic actress yet she says she despises acting, feeling like she has an obligation to it even though she could have just not become one or left at anytime, and her apathy’s demonstrated when she causes Naruto to be crushed by a pile of wooden beams and potentially get hospitalized for it and she doesn’t even bat an eye, all because he was looking at the Hex Crystal on her chest), but I can at least feel pity for her when she’s forced to risk her life over a royal feud she’s expected to do just because she happened to be the child of a king. Even then, she’s less reluctant to do it because of said pressures but more because out of nihilism that Doto couldn’t be stopped and it’s not worth the trouble trying. Very frustrating character, indeed.

Even the action, the main point of a shounen movie, is nothing worth writing about. There’s only three minor fight scenes throughout the movie, none of them particularly spectacular, but the climax earns bonus points for being especially anti-climatic, with the shounen movie mooks (a group of henchmen working for the main villain that exist only for padding) dying in about 2 minutes and Doto going down not much longer. Doto’s pretty much a lame character, with no real motivation or personality, but at least I can give him and his minions points for the unique chakra armor, which nullifies any ninjutsu or genjutsu (illusions) thrown at them….or at least the concept of it. Since they’re still vulnerable to taijutsu (good ol martial arts), I was wondering why the hell Kakashi didn’t bring along Might Guy, the resident taijutsu expert who wasn’t recovering from a brutal tournament arc fight (rip Rock Lee), it ended up not mattering, because the team curbstomped them all anyway! Only other things worth mentioning that I can’t fit anywhere else are that Sakura at least gets to show off some badassery once or twice, which might not seem like much but I’ll take what I can get with Sakura having approximately 2 good fights in the entire series, and that my boy Sasuke got shafted, only contributing to fights and not having much impact on the story or any lines beyond that. Overall, Ninja Clash in the Land of Snow is as generic a shounen movie as you can get, and if fans agreed that this was the only good non-canon Naruto film, if you’ll excuse me, I need to stock up on Tylenol for the movies to come.

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