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.

Origin: Spirits of the Past aka Gin-iro no kami no Aigot (2006) – 6/10 science fiction fantasy anime movie review

Cast / crew
Director: Keiichi Sugiyama

Origin: Spirits of the Past aka Gin-iro no kami no Agito (2006)

After the Earth is devastated by a cataclysm on the Moon, the survivors struggle to survive as, not only has everything been destroyed, but the forest has become malevolent. Some keep a fragile peace with the forest while others tackle the problem with munitions. Into this world, Toola, a girl from the old world is about to awaken from her StayField-induced sleep and unlock the key to restoring the former balance between men and the forest.

6/10

Getting off to a spectacular start over the opening credits as the Moon fractures and devastates Earth, Origin doesn’t build on this but keeps itself just out of reach of the audience. The villains motivation seems entirely just (they are trying to restore balance to nature) and a late attempted misuse of power seems inexplicably unnecessary. The climax also features a volcano which has had feet fitted so it can be moved. As a plot point, it doesn’t work. Presentation, however, is another story. The stunning opening sequence has already been mentioned but the entire production is a class act visually and sonically.

This movie contains violence.

Classified 12 by BBFC. Suitable only for persons of 12 years and over.

Trigun: Badlands Rumble (2010, Action Comedy) – 8/10 anime movie review

Cast / crew
Director: Satoshi Nishimura
Writer (Original Manga): Yasuhiro Nightow
Writer (Story): Yasuhiro Nightow
Writer (Story): Satoshi Nishimura
Writer (Screenplay): Yasuko Kobayashi
Shou Hayami: Wolfwood
Tsutomu Isobe: Gasback
Masaya Onosaka: Vash the Stampede
Maaya Sakamoto: Amelia
Hiromi Tsuru: Meryl
Satsuki Yukino: Milly

Trigun: Badlands Rumble (2010)

Twenty years after saving legendary robber Gasback’s life, Vash the Stampede returns to the town where the somewhat questionable event took place and where Gasback is intending to gain revenge against a treacherous henchman turned highly successful businessman. The businessman, Cain, has set up a massive $$300,000,000 bounty on Gasback’s head but among the bounty hunters that stream into the town is Amelia, a beautiful young woman who seems to have a more personal beef with Gasback.

8/10

Vash the Stampede is one of Japanese animations most brilliant creations: an apparent buffoonish mega-outlaw ($$60,000,000,000 bounty) who is a self-effacing mega-hero completely committed to not killing anyone (good or bad) or letting anyone else kill. If you’ve got the tone of the character (he can take some acclimatising), it’s wonderful stuff and a lot of fun. His buffoonery is jolly, his awesomeness is awesome. Mad House once again spectacularly present his antics, delivering a deceptive plot very well and making sure it’s as stylish and impressive as can be from the opening robbery of world history’s most protected bank vault through to SPOILER Vash making his hero’s entrance for the climax.

This movie contains sexual swear words and strong melee violence, graphic gun violence.

Links

Appleseed: Ex Machina aka Ekusu makina (2007, Science Fiction Mecha CG Anime) – 6/10 movie review

Cast / crew
Producer: John Woo
Writer (Original Comic Book): Masamune Shirow
Producer: Terence Chang
Producer: Hidenori Ueki
Producer: Naoko Watanabe
Producer: Joseph Chou
Writer (Screenplay): Kiyoto Takeuchi
Producer CG: Yusaku Toyoshima
Director CG: Yasuhiro Ohtsuka
Director CG: Yasushi Kawamura
Director: Shinji Aramaki
Luci Christian: English: Deunan
David Matranga: English: Briareos
Illich Guardiola: English: Tereus
Ai Kobayashi: Japanese: Deunan
Koichi Yamadera: Japanese: Briareos
Yuuji Kishi: Japanese: Tereus
Toyoe Sekita: Motion Capture: Deunan
Moki Ogawa: Motion Capture: Briareos
Yoshiyuki Kamata: Motion Capture: Tereus

Appleseed: Ex Machina aka Ekusu makina (2007)

A.D. 2133: as the Bioroid-run Olympus (a utopian city governed by humanoid cyborg’s with troublesome emotions like anger and fear removed) invites the rest of the world to join with its satellite network to usher in an era of global peace, something or someone has plans of their own and is mind-controlling cyborgs to get it.

6/10

Once again, as with Appleseed (CG), the strongest scene opens the movie with a notably cool action sequence inside a cathedral sprinkled with neat ideas. The remainder doesn’t make much sense but at least you do know what the heroes are doing and the technical concepts come across clearly. The problem is that the baddie’s plans make no sense at all (SPOILER especially the shooting himself in the head and dying bit) but, as I say, you do know what everyone is doing so you can easily follow events. Technically, this is brilliantly designed (Deunan’s two Prada-designed outfits are impressively eye-catching) and has a lovely look that keeps itself out of the uncanny valley by having a very simple colour style, especially for character faces.

This movie contains a single sexual swear word, mild swear words and violence, brief graphic violence.

Classified 12 by BBFC. Suitable only for persons of 12 years and over.

Links

Appleseed (2004, Science Fiction Mecha CG Anime) – 7/10 movie review

Cast / crew
Writer (Original Comic Book) Seishinsha: Masamune Shirow
Writer (Screenplay): Haruka Handa
Writer (Screenplay): Tsutomu Kamishiro
Producer: Hidenori Ueki
Producer: Naoko Watanabe
Producer CG: Yusaku Toyoshima
Director CG: Yasuhiro Ohtsuka
Producer: Fumihiko Sori
Director: Shinji Aramaki
Ai Kobayashi: Deunan
Jurota Kosugi: Briarios
Yuki Matsuoka: Hitomi
Mami Koyama: Athena
Asumi Miwa: Motion Actor: Deunan
Takao Miyashita: Motion Actor: Briareos
Tomomi Kato: Motion Actor: Hitomi
Kouko Furuta: Motion Actor: Athena
Ai Kobayashi: Facial Model: Deunan
Yuki Matsuoka: Facial Model: Hitomi
Kouko Furuta: Facial Model: Athena
Copyright Holder: Masamune Shirow

Appleseed (2004)

7/10

Yeah, but the last letter of the password? This cool, great-looking Japanese animation features an ambitious scenario and generally superlative animation (occasional facial animation is a little less than outstanding). The English dub is good. Where it does fall down is that the story doesn’t make much sense in how it gets from one scene to another and that the first outstanding action scene (produced and directed as a test before committing to the remaining 95 minutes) is the best of the movie.

This movie contains mild swear words, mild adult dialogue and some extreme violence, strong martial arts violence, gory and unpleasant scenes and mild nudity.

Classified 12A by BBFC. Persons under the age of 12 must be accompanied by an adult.

Links

Azu Manga Daioh (2002, School Anime, TV) – 7/10 review

Writer Published in Japan by Media Works "Monthly Comic Dengeki Daioh": Kiyohiko Azuma
Series Supervisor: Ichiro Okouchi
Director: Nishikiori Hiroshi
Tomoko Kaneda: Chiyo Mihama
Yuki Matsuoka: Ayumu Kasuga
Chieko Higuchi: Tomo Takino
Rie Tanaka: Koyomi Mizuhara
Yu Asakawa: Sakaki
Houko Kuwashima: Kagura
Akiko Hiramatsu: Yukari Tanizaki
Aya Hisakawa: Minamo Kurosawa

Azu Manga Daioh (2002)

Six friends go through three years of high school together, each has different personalities, abilities, talents, hopes and dreams but the sharing their experiences will make the time so much sweeter.

7/10

Relentlessly positive and sweet high school comedy drama which … An assertion that school friends will be together forever is a reassuring lie kept in for the younger viewers but most of the remainder is recognisably human. There’s no mistrust, deception or conniving and don’t we all wish we could always think and see the best in others rather than focusing on their faults.

This series contains mild swear words, mild adult dialogue and mild ‘fan-service’, sexual references.

Classified 12 by BBFC. Suitable only for persons of 12 years and over.

Tetsuwan Birdy Decode aka Birdy the Mighty Decode (2008, TV, Anime) – 7/10 review

Writer: Masami Yuki
Director: Kazuki Akane

Tetsuwan Birdy Decode aka Birdy the Mighty: Decode (2008)

Birdy Cephon, an intergalactic police officer, finally catches up with her latest quarry after six months undercover as an idol (famous model) on Earth but her attempts to apprehend him result in a major change of plan.

7/10

Birdy the Mighty Decode is more intriguing, fun and boasts much better action than expected. Character designs and direction ensure that we are instantly familiar with each major character introduced without confusion. There is a story running through all thirteen episodes and though one (episode seven about a serial killer) feels like padding they are consistently engaging and manage to balance fun with intrigue and sinister goings-on. It all builds to the separation of Birdy and Tsutomu (which surprisingly happens before the last episode) and a battle against the series’ threat, Ryunka, which is resolved entirely fittingly.

This series contains mild swear words and extreme fantasy violence, unpleasant scenes, unpleasant monster scenes, graphic blade violence, silhouetted extreme graphic violence and mild fan-service, mild non-sexual nudity, sensuality.

Bubblegum Crisis Tokyo 2040 (1998, Anime, TV) – 6/10 review

Director: Hiroki Hayashi
Writer (Screenplay): Chiaki Konaka
Writer (Screenplay): Sadayuki Murai
Production Designer: Shinji Aramaki
Character Design: Masaki Yamada
Original Design Hard Suit: Kenichi Sonoda
Production Designer Mechanical and Hard Suit: Shinji Aramaki
Christine Auten: English Voice Cast: Priss
Laura Chapman: English Voice Cast: Sylia
Kelly Manison: English Voice Cast: Linna
Hilary Haag: English Voice Cast: Nene
Yu Asakawa: Priss
Satsuki Yukino: Sylia
Rio Natsuki: Linna
Hiroko Konishi: Nene

Bubblegum Crisis Tokyo 2040 (1998)

A Tokyo devastated by the earthquake has been rebuilt as MegaTokyo in record time thanks to amazing advances in boomer (robot) technology. However, such advances don’t come without a price and sometimes a boomer will go insane, twisting itself into a violent maelstrom of metal death. While the AD Police are the lawfully and commercially provided means of response a team of technologically-advanced vigilante boomer killers called Knight Sabers have exploded onto the scene, dealing rapidly with mad boomers, embarrassing and infuriating the AD Police at the same time.

6/10

Though this gets progressively weaker and more baffling as it goes on, it definitely earns itself an above average rating thanks to well-drawn characters that convincingly develop throughout the show both in themselves and their relationships with others. As well done as it is, oddly, it isn’t quite enough to make you care about the characters and so hanging their fate in the balance for the last few episodes is surprisingly uninvolving. Outside of the overall character arcs, episode seven Look at Yourself stood out as getting all the elements of the show (pretty girls, robots, intrigue and relationships) to gel but it was really the only one.

This series contains mild swear words and graphic violence, strong unpleasant scenes and full non-sexual nudity, sensuality.

Classified 12 by BBFC. Suitable only for persons of 12 years and over.

Pom Poko (1994, Movie, Anime) – 2/10 review

Director: Isao Takahata

Pom Poko (1994)

When raccoons find their habitat being systematically destroyed, they decide to break out their ability to transform into just about anything in an effort to scare the humans away.

2/10

Somewhat critically, this fails to keep your disbelief suspended. It’s all fine when the raccoons (actually raccoon dogs or tanuki) are transforming themselves (!) but when they start transforming other objects or producing objects from nothing transforming into things much larger or smaller than themselves or walking on the ceiling, the movie breaks. It also becomes bizarrely dull long before the end. Despite being a film about shape-shifting raccoons, it somewhat miraculously still manages to get an upskirt pantie shot in there and, as a bonus, it probably features the most testicles (confusingly referred to as pouches in English) in any film ever made.

This movie contains unpleasant scenes and very brief female nudity in magazine.

Classified PG by BBFC. Parental Guidance.

Little Norse Prince (1968, Anime, Movie) – 7/10

Producer: Hiroshi Okawa
Writer (Conception): Masajiro Seki
Writer (Screenplay): Kazuo Fukazawa
Writer (Creator): Yasuo Otsuka
Animator: Hayao Miyazaki
Mijikiro Hira: Grunwald
Eijiro Tono: Ganko
Etsuko Ichihara: Hiruda
Masao Mishima: Village Leader
Director: Isao Takahata
Hisako Okata: Horusu

Little Norse Prince (1968)

Horusu is told by his dying father that he is the last survivor of a village destroyed by a demon and he is urged to go and find other humans and try and unite them to fight against the demon to stop it happening again. Hurusu’s early efforts pay off well but then he finds an orphaned girl, Hiruda, with a beautiful voice and, inexplicably, things start to go badly.

7/10

Considered as the first modern anime by some, this is great enough, often enough to offset the occasional story-telling bumps and pacing issues. Though referred to as a conscious effort to break away from Disney and, particularly, Toei’s contemporary childrens animations, it feels highly reminiscent of the first few Disney films Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs through to Fantasia as it is clearly a movie with complex characters, good versus evil motifs and something for all audiences. Despite budget cuts and the non-animation of the village attacks by the wolves and the rats, the animation is frequently excellent with the character work on Hiruda particularly nuanced.

This movie contains violence and mild non-sexual nudity.

Classified U by BBFC. Universal: Suitable for All.

Haibane-Renmei (2002, Anime) – 8/10 review

Writer (Series’ Creator) Charcoal Feathers in Old Home: Yoshitoshi Abe
Producer Pioneer LDC: Yasuyuki Ueda
Director: Tomokazu Tokoro
Writer (Screenplay): Yoshitoshi Abe
Ryo Hirohashi: Rakka
Junko Noda: Reki

Haibane-Renmei (2002)

It’s an exciting day for the Haibane – an group of beings with halos and wings who live inside a walled world and are supported by a generous town – as a new cocoon, an unusually large one, grows. Inside is Rakka, the newest Haibane and she starts to learn about her new existence and new friends.

8/10

This is what I love about Japanese animation. Haibane-Renmei tackles big topics – such as death, motivation, redemption and salvation – in a gentle, intelligent and never condescending manner. Even more than that, though, it connects emotionally and it always intrigues me that I find it easier to become lost in animation than in live-action drama. (Almost all my favourite films are animated.) It is sweet and positive and thought-provoking. For instance, where do the Haibane come from? Are they children who have killed themselves accidentally or on purpose? On top of the questions raised by the show’s setting (and, generally, left unanswered), we have the global existentialist and moral questions. For instance, even if we start to do good for selfish, or the wrong, reasons, will those reasons be consumed by the good deeds? Does that constitute redemption and is that enough for salvation? Haibane-Renmei manages to be both deep and light at the same time; a remarkable combination.

This series contains mild gory scenes, unpleasant scenes and mild non-sexual nudity.

Classified 12 by BBFC. Suitable only for persons of 12 years and over.

Battle Doll Angelic Layer anime HD wallpapers

HD wallpapers for the wonderful Battle Doll Angelic Layer anime (my review).

These are massively resized DVD captures. The orange one (matches some Linux distributions nicely) is of Hikaru when she has been first constructed and the other is of the post-ad interstitial from the second half of the series.

The original Angelic Layer logo from the interstitial didn’t survive the resize and so I removed it and created a new sharper logo by taking the logo from a high quality scan of a DVD cover. The wings took more work than expected to carefully cut out of the original image but the end result are good large wallpapers with a soft but clear main image and crisp logo.

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New Captain Scarlet (2004) comment and HD widescreen wallpapers

In 2004 Gerry Anderson resurrected two of his iconic franchises: Captain Scarlet and Thunderbirds.

The latter was an expensive major motion picture and forgot what was good about Thunderbirds by, somewhat remarkably, spending most of the time ignoring the Thunderbirds and sidelining the international rescuing aspect of the International Rescue organisation. Instead, Ben Kingsley arrived in a funny costume and, well, that was it. While it wasn’t exactly bad, it certainly didn’t work and, despite a modest budget by Hollywood standards, it lost lots of money (probably about $100 million after it’s worldwide cinema run and taking into account marketing / production costs and cinema distribution cuts).

Though destined for television, Captain Scarlet’s remake was also going to be expensive (about $1 million per episode) and produced using computer animation and design much better than we normally saw on television. Now the original show was about a dude who gets killed or, at least, horrifically injured in almost every episode. While you could get away with that kind of AWESOMENESS in the Sixties, you couldn’t in the Noughties. Brilliantly, Anderson set up a private finance venture to produce his new version. The show looked incredible, Scarlet still got killed or horrifically injured in at least half the episodes and the show was largely brilliant. Did I mention it looked incredible? Unfortunately, it got dumped on by ITV who waited a year, then tucked it away in a Saturday morning kid’s marathon show (they even missed out an episode here and there) and it, too, ended up losing money. Big, big shame. If they’d stuck it in Saturday evening prime-time slot, as the BBC did the same year with their Doctor Who reboot, maybe they’d had seen the same kind of immense success.

Nevertheless, let’s never forget the clearly passionate and brilliant work of the artists involved (though they should definitely have brought back some of Barry Gray’s iconic music). I really, really enjoyed it. If you are an action anime fan, it’ll certainly appeal to you. While the original Thunderbirds was Gerry Anderson’s best ever idea, both the old and new series of Captain Scarlet were his best ever work.

So here are two wallpapers for New Captain Scarlet.

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You can buy the 1967 Captain Scarlet on DVD and the 2004 Captain Scarlet on DVD and both are well worth it. You can also buy the Thunderbirds movie on DVD but it’s not. The thought of a Blu-ray HD re-release of New Captain Scarlet is mouth-watering and I look forward to revisiting it.

Chobits (2002, Anime) – 8/10

Writer (Original Comic): Clamp
Character Design: Hisashi Abe
Animation Director: Hisashi Abe
Director: Morio Asaka
Rie Tanaka: Chii
Tomokazu Sugita: Hideki Motosuwa
Tomokazu Seki: Shinbo Hiromu
Motoko Kumai: Sumomo
Houko Kuwashima: Minoru Kokubunji

Chobits (2002)

Country boy Hideki comes to Tokyo for prep school and is impressed by, and envious of, the prevalence of people with persocoms, PC’s designed to look and act like animals or humans. While he wishes he could have one, there is no way he can afford it but then he discovers a really cute, full-size persocom in the garbage near his building.

8/10

While it certainly takes a bit of thought to work out what was going on in the end and the reason for Chi being in the garbage is never made clear, the emotion always worked and that was absolutely critical. The theme of the series, you love someone (or something) because of what they can and can’t do and because you are happy to see their happiness, is nice and not hopelessly romanticised. In between the story elements, the show was interesting, fun and sweet while deftly and sensitively dealing with some surprising subjects including sexual exploitation of minors, the existentialism of artificial intelligence, human / android relationships, the responsibility of AI coders (just because you can doesn’t mean you should), the future of mobile phones, MMOGs and, er, yummies.

This series contains adult dialogue and mild adult references including references to photobooks and sexy magazines and sexual exploitation, non-sexual nudity, ‘fan service’.

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

Available on The Chobits Collection DVD.

Tokyo Godfathers (2004, Anime) – 7/10

Tokyo Godfathers (2004)

Christmas Night: a trio of homeless bums find a baby abandoned in some rubbish. Hana declares it a Christmas miracle and a gift from God. It seems that the big guy upstairs is certainly working in mysterious ways this Christmas as the trio put everything on the line to protect the baby, Kiyuko, and return her to her parents.

7/10

A tale of Christmas miracles told with pace, invention (you will not predict a single sequence) and wit by Satoshi Kon but this fairy tale certainly won’t be to everyone’s taste. It’s brilliantly animated (the Japanese are the current masters of character animation) and Kon uses perfectly delivered comedic moments to puncture the dark and unflinching events his characters go through. It ends with the Tokyo skyline dancing along to the closing credits song and that whimsical thread of magic is wonderfully woven throughout.

This movie contains mild swear words, adult dialogue and a homosexual character and strong violence and breast-feeding.

Classified 12 by BBFC. Suitable only for persons of 12 years and over.

Available on DVD.

Lupin the Third: The Castle of Cagliostro HD widescreen wallpaper 1920×1080

Hayao Miyazaki is the animation director genius behind Studio Ghibli and all its best movies. His first movie was a TV spin-off of Lupin III and is, by some way, the best Lupin III adventure produced. You can see all of Miyazaki’s enthusiasms and characterisation mannerisms even here in The Castle of Cagliostro.

The wallpaper is constructed from  DVD capture but Lupin himself has been recoloured by hand to sharpen him up.

These two wallpapers are identical except the left one is encoded at JPEG95 and the right one as lossless PNG. The PNG definitely looks better but it is a much larger file size.

JPEG95

PNG

Vexille (2007, Anime) – 6/10

Vexille (2007)

After ten years of self-imposed isolation and total electronic blackout, a SWORD unit gets a tip off about a secret meeting being held with a principal of Japanese heavy industry giant Daiwa. The meeting is intercepted, apparently successfully, but an illegal android body part featuring technology beyond their imagination means that a covert incursion into Japan will be the only way to discover the truth and extent of what the mysterious nation is planning.

6/10

Visually impressive CG animation in a style that is considerably more successful than the freak shows that American animation under Robert Zemeckis are currently producing. The story also has a number of good ideas and strong action sequences but, like Appleseed before it, has a story that is not kept in clear focus. The visuals and ideas are good enough to carry the movie but when someone marries narrative, character and this animation style together, the results are going to be breathtaking.

This movie contains graphic violence against androids, violence.

Classified 12A by BBFC. Persons under the age of 12 must be accompanied by an adult..

Speed Racer (2008, Movie) – 6/10

Cast / crew
Writer: Andy Wachowski
Writer: Larry Wachowski
Director: Andy Wachowski
Director: Larry Wachowski
Producer: Joel Silver
Producer: Grant Hill
Producer: Andy Wachowski
Producer: Larry Wachowski
Emile Hirsch: Speed Racer
Christina Ricci: Trixie
John Goodman: Pops
Susan Sarandon: Mom
Matthew Fox: Racer X
Roger Allam: Royalton
Paulie Litt: Spritle
Benno Fürmann: Inspector Detector
Hiroyuki Sanada: Mr. Musha
Rain: Taejo Togokahn
Richard Roundtree: Ben Burns
Kick Gurry: Sparky
Original Animated Series Creator Speed Racer: Tatsuo Yoshida

Speed Racer (2008)

Speed Racer has known only racing his whole life, first in the shadow of his ruthless racing brother, Rex, who was killed in a rally accident and, secondly, as a star racer himself with a shot at the big-time and the season finalé Grand Prix. He is offered lucrative sponsorship but every silver lining has a cloud.

6/10

Speed Racer is little man versus big business against-all-odds racing cliché presented with eye-popping vividness and colour. While the family dynamics are well done, the racing sequences are near-broken with only Michael Giacchino’s exciting score coming to the visceral rescue (though it only works in the movie). In any action sequence you need to be able to discern instantly who is doing what to whom and whether it is good or bad. None of this can be discerned during the racing sequences and so it’s left to a couple of brief but well-done martial arts sequences to hold the action end up.

This movie contains bad language and extremely unpleasant peril, violence.

Classified PG by BBFC. Parental Guidance.

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Millennium Actress (2001, Anime) – 8/10

Millennium Actress (2001)

Documentary maker Genya Tachibana has secured an unheard of interview with popular actress Chiyoko Fujiwara, now retired for thirty years, with the return of a precious object that has shaped her life in every way.

8/10

A bit brilliant, then, as master animation director Satoshi Kon delivers a moving and uniquely told romantic tale with humanity and humour. The performances and animation are consistently terrific but it’s Kon’s astonishing method of telling his story that is entirely unforgettable. Though it doesn’t sound like much, he also supplies the best heart attack in cinema history by making it feel like you’ve had the heart attack.

This movie contains violence, unpleasant scenes.

Classified PG by BBFC. Parental Guidance.

Death Note: The Last Name (2006) – 7/10

Death Note: Last Name, The (2006)

Having manufactured Shiori’s death and eliminated Naomi Misura, Light has got himself into a position where he may be able to get himself onto the Kira Investigation Unit and get close to L. Then a second Kira announces their presence to the world and to Light. This second Kira has the Eyes of a Death God and only needs to see a person’s face to know their name. Second Kira offers this ability to Light so all he has to do now to win is introduce second Kira to L.

7/10

Successfully squishing all the major plot points from the remainder of the story into 140 minutes, this also brings back the methodology of the manga ending (which the anime changed slightly) but delivers a different message to either (here Kira good, manga Kira bad, anime Kira meaningless). The changes made were, I feel, absolutely right for live action which does have to stick to more traditional entertainment clichés but there isn’t the tension in Light and L’s battle of wits that was present in the anime and so the triumphs of either party (particularly the mobile phone scene) have less impact.

This television contains mild swear words and unpleasant and very gory scene, unpleasant scenes, brief graphic violence.

Death Note (2006) – 7/10

Death Note (2006)

Yagami Light is a very intelligent star pupil who intends to follow his father, who is a Chief Detective, into the police force. Light comes into ownership of a book, a Death Note, which has the power to kill anyone whose name he writes therein. Once he realises the Death Note’s power he decides to make the world a better place by destroying all the criminals that keep escaping justice.

7/10

Surprisingly good for a Japanese television movie (the first of two for this story) and while that is mainly down to the staggeringly brilliant story (from a manga by Tsugumi Oba and Takeshi Obata), the acting (Kenichi Matsuyama’s L aside), music, pacing and tone are all good and the memorable design of Death God (or Shinigami) Ryuk is superbly recreated. The only significant thing that’s missing from this adaptation is the scene where Light decides that his mission to rid the world of evil is worth any cost but it doesn’t undermine the astonishing impact of his remarkable machinations.

This television contains mild swear words and violence, unpleasant scenes.

Death Note R: Visionary Deity (2006, Anime) – 8/10

Death Note R: Visionary Deity (2006)

Ryuk sums up his experiences on earth with Light Yagami, an interesting human who tried to become a god on a planet of boring people doing boring things.

8/10

While it, unavoidably, doesn’t have the tension or sense of bravado and joyous intelligence of the full anime series, this two-hour digest version does remind fans of all the astonishing and wonderful sequences it boasted. Fans are also reminded of the superb production values, voice-acting, animation and music (the opening credits, the capture of Higuchi / return of the Death Note and the climax of the battle between Light and L are thrillingly visceral). Curiously, like the live-action movies, it skips the entire Near and Mello story arc and changes the inferred end of the anime to the end of the manga. Knock two stars off if you haven’t seen the series (the first twenty-five or so episodes!).

This television contains mild swear words and strong gory and unpleasant scenes.

Death Note (2006, Anime) – 9/10

Writer (Original Comic Book): Ohba Tsugumi
Writer (Original Illustrator): Obata Takeshi
Director: Araki Tetsurou

Death Note (2006)

Death Note: How to Use It.

1. The human whose name is written in this note, shall die.

2. This note will not take effect unless the writer has the person’s face in their mind when writing his/her name. Therefore, people sharing the same name will not be affected.

3. If the cause of death is written within 40 seconds of writing the person’s name, it will happen. If the cause of death is not specified, the person will simply die of a heart attack.

4. After writing the cause of death, details of the death should be written in the next 6 minutes and 40 seconds.

9/10

An outstanding, thought-provoking, very thrilling, and relentlessly intelligent series, Death Note is an instant classic anime (based on a manga by Tsugumi Oba and Takeshi Obata). While the show was never as effective after episode twenty-five as it had been (it no longer generates the gripping edge-of-the-seat tension from the battle of wits), it remained interesting, entertaining and well-produced until the end. In any case, the central question regarding clearing out the murderers and criminals from the world is an intriguing one. The show does take a definite side on this issue and explains why in the final episode but compelling arguments could be made for both sides. This is a remarkably impressive and entertaining way to tickle the mind.

This series contains sexual swear words in opening song from episode 20 onwards, sexual swear words and a graphic and very gory scene of violence, an unpleasant and very gory scene, violence, unpleasant scenes and mild nudity.

Death Note Week

Death Note is a manga created by writer Tsugumi Oba (thought by some to be a pseudonym for a more experienced writer usually known for lighter fare) and illustrator Takashi Obata.

It is a remarkable story brilliantly told in all formats (though I haven’t read all of the manga). An indication of this is that I devoured the thirty-seven episode anime in just a few days, then immediately sought out the live-action movies and recap anime movie. So, this week I shall be presenting my reviews for the anime, anime recap movie and the two live-action movies.