Appleseed Alpha (2014) – 6/10 post-apocalyptic mecha action anime movie review

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Cast / crew
Director and Storyboard Artist: Shinji Aramaki
Screenplay Writer: Marianne Krawczyk
Story Writer: Masamune Shirow
Producer: Joseph Chou
CGI Director and Storyboard Artist: Masaru Matsumoto
Deunan: Luci Christian
Briareos: David Matranga
Wendel Calvert: Two Horns
Chris Hutchinson: Matthews
Adam Gibbs: Olson
Actress and Motion Capture Performer Iris: Brina Palencia
Josh Sheltz: Talos
Elizabeth Bunch: Nyx
Actor and Motion Capture Performer Briareos: David Matranga
Motion Capture Performer Deunan: Alissa Simmons

Appleseed Alpha (2014)

Deunan and Briareos are struggling to get by as mercenaries following World War Three and are currently indentured to Two Horns, a gangster who has taken over the remains of New York City. He sends them out on a simple droid-clearing assignment but they run into Olsen and a mysterious girl and find new meaning to their lives.

6/10

Entertaining and good-looking action movie which isn’t as successful at capturing the audience’s emotions as it is trying to be. Fortunately, it isn’t grasping too hard and so you don’t find the emotional beats funny. This is not a negative review but the action likewise doesn’t break out of adequate; a lack of imagination and logic means that there are some reasonably exciting scenes which end when their time is up, not because a character or plot point or logical action caused it to end. None of the action in the Appleseed CG movies has ever been close to the heights of the opening scene of the first one.  With these faults noted, though, I still enjoyed the movie, I liked the characters enough and was never remotely bored. Villain Two Horns is an unexpected highlight but some of the visuals are clearly the talking point; the environments and explosions are photo-realistic and the characters are highly convincing without using the anime-style of previous outings or descending into the distracting uncanny valley.

This movie contains strong violence, adult dialogue

Welcome to The Space Show (2010) – 7/10 science fiction fantasy adventure anime movie review

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Cast / crew
Creator and Director: Koji Masunari
Creator and Screenplay Writer: Hideyuki Kurata
Creator: Tomonori Ochikoshi
Tomoyo Kurosawa: Natsuki Koyama
Honoka Ikezuka: Amane Suzuki
Shotaro Uzawa: Kiyoshi Sato
Tamaki Matsumoto: Noriko Nishimura
Takuto Yoshinaga: Koji Harada
Keiji Fujiwara: Pochi Rickman

Welcome to The Space Show (2010)

Summer camp is going to be a bigger adventure than anyone ever dreamed when a group of friends go in search of a rabbit they lost and find an injured dog.

7/10

Fun, happy adventure movie brimming with invention. The finalé is confusing (a bad guy’s personal shield explodes because he’s told there’s good in him?) but it feels like good is battling bad and good wins; what more do you need to know? The film connects enough emotionally that the goodbyes and final bike ride, especially, are touching and boasts enough dazzling diversions that attention is generally distracted from the rather baffling plot.

This movie contains violence

Roujin Z (1991) – 7/10 animated science-fiction nursing action movie review

Cast / crew
Director: Hiroyuki Kitakubo
Writer: Katsuhiro Otomo
Chisa Yokoyama: Haruko
Shinji Ogawa: Terada
Art Director: Satoshi Kon

Roujin Z (1991)

The Ministry of Public Welfare unveils a new high-tech bed that can take complete care of elderly patients and they get an oblivious Mr. Hasegawa to test it out. His nurse, Haruka, is extremely surprised but feels that an automated bed is not the best way to take care of him and so marches in to the grand public unveiling to make sure Hasegawa is okay.

7/10

This is a fun, agreeably over-the-top satire-cum-action mecha movie which is highly unusual through featuring a nurse’s professional relationship with her patient (and that’s not a euphemism). This is yet another Japanese animation where you can legitimately say that there’s nothing else quite like it.

This movie contains Unpleasant scenes, adult dialogue

Classified 15 by BBFC. Suitable only for persons of 15 years and over.

Patlabor: The Mobile Police (1989) – 5/10 mecha police anime movie review

Cast / crew
Writer (Original Concept): Yuuki Masami
Writer (Screenplay): Kazunori Ito
Producer: Shin Unozawa
Producer: Taro Maki
Producer: Makoto Kubo
Director: Mamoru Oshii

Patlabor: Mobile Police, The

Patlabor: Movie, The (1989)

Labor’s – giant mechanical exoskeletons – are in widespread use, especially in the construction industry making skyscrapers and artificial islands. However, recently, some Labor’s have been malfunctioning without any obvious reason but a young detective discovers that every one of them were running the same new Hyper Operating System from a single company.

5/10

A plot that isn’t quite intriguing and that is never sufficiently explained is exposed by a lack of interesting characters, technology or action. Why the villain kills himself at the beginning is never made clear and quite how the heroes dismantling the Ark during the climax makes sense is also beyond me (the villain was trying to destroy the Ark, we’ll stop him by destroying it ourselves, hah!). Oshii directs with his usual flat style but the trademark commendable time he takes with his characters and plot, as usual, don’t amount to anything.

This movie contains bad language and mild mecha violence.

Classified PG by BBFC. Parental Guidance.

Agatha Christie’s Great Detectives Poirot and Marple (2004) – 5/10 crime mystery anime review

Cast / crew
Kaoru Yachigusa: Miss Marple
Kotaro Satomi: Hercule Poirot
Writer (Original Story) The Adventure of the Cheap Flat: Agatha Christie

Great Detectives Poirot and Marple, Agatha Christie’s (2004)

Maybelle is the great niece of Jane Marple, a resident of St. Mary Mead with a reputation for solving mysteries, especially criminal ones. Maybelle also invents herself a job as an assistant to the world’s greatest detective Hercule Poirot and proceeds to work for him. As such she gets to see two great detectives at work and hopes to learn from them.

5/10

This is an intriguing and surprisingly accurate adaptation (no lesbians here ITV) of a lot of Agatha Christie stories for a Japanese audience. The mysteries are very clearly presented but, despite excellent music and perfectly adequate animation, there’s no atmosphere and the girl and baby duck (!) are not artistically justifiable or thematically necessary. (They will have been added for commercial reasons.) Generally, Miss Marple comes off worse; basically she’s a smug know-it-all. Poirot clearly works for and applies his "little grey cells" to the solution but there’s no character behind his brains.

This series contains adult dialogue and violence, unpleasant scenes.

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King of Thorn (2009) – 7/10 science fiction horror anime movie review

Cast / crew
Director: Kazuyoshi Katayama
Writer (Screenplay): Kazuyoshi Katayama
Writer (Screenplay): Hiroshi Yamaguchi
Writer: Akiko Yajima
Kana Hanazawa: Kasumi Ishiki
Toshiyuki Morikawa: Marco Owen
Akiko Yajima: Tim

King of Thorn (2009)

Medusa, an incurable disease that turns its victims to stone after a month or two, is sweeping the world. After a while, pharmaceutical giant Venus Gate Corporation announces that is has developed suspended animation modules that can keep the disease at bay until such a time as a cure is found. Kasumi Ishiki has won a single ticket from the lottery held for the 160 places available but is devastated that her twin sister Shizuku, who also has the disease, cannot get in. When she awakes from her suspended animation module, Kasumi awakes to find the facility massively overgrown with giant thorns and horrible monsters: just how long has she been asleep?

7/10

Spectacular, superbly animated, relentlessly paced monster movie with a slightly baffling but intriguing meta-physical climax. As a suspenseful chase movie it grabs hold and doesn’t let go; as a existential sci-fi, it just about presents the explanation in a manner you can understand (so better than most Japanese animations, then) but it still comes across as somewhat obtuse and requires post-movie consideration to see that the makers probably did know what they were doing.

This movie contains suicide themes and extremely gory violence, unpleasant and extremely gory scenes and non-sexual nudity.

Paranoia Agent (2004) – 8/10 difficult-to-categorise psychological crime anime review

Cast / crew
Writer (Original Story): Satoshi Kon
Screenplay Developer: Seishi Minakami
Developer: Seishi Minakami
Director: Satoshi Kon

Paranoia Agent (2004)

Tsukiko Sagi is a character designer under pressure to follow up her huge success with the cute Maromi. Her success and innocent demeanour mean she isn’t liked at work. On her way home one evening, she sees and is scared by a homeless old woman but is then attacked in a nearby car park by a boy with a bent baseball bat and golden inline skates. Her attack and "Lil’ Slugger" make the news but some people aren’t convinced it really happened. One of the policemen assigned believes her, one doesn’t and there is a disblieving gossip journalist, with pressures of his own, sniffing around trying to make a story.

8/10

"They will never get an answer no matter how hard they try to analyze it." – Paranoia Agent creator / director Satoshi Kon.

And so this instant-classic anime is what you make of it. While the Satoshi Kon quote above is talking specifically about the regular opening sequence (featuring all the characters in the show laughing), it does apply to the series as a whole. There is a series-long story-line, there is much food for thought, the animation is reference quality, the subject unusual and ambitious and you can get answers but you won’t find the answers Kon put in there… because he didn’t.

This series contains adult dialogue and strong violence, unpleasant and very gory scenes, gory and distressing scene involving the death of a dog, teenage suicide and sex scenes, references to paedophilia.

Classified 18 by BBFC. Suitable only for persons of 18 years and over.