Monday, July 16, 2018

ANI-MOVIES, *Yellow Submarine

For half a century, Yellow Submarine has been one of the most groundbreaking animated projects ever put to film. Released in 1968, this took advantage of the worldwide popularity of the Beatles, and put forth a series of animated segments highlighting their music loosely strung together by a hazy plot featuring animated versions of The Fab Four. United Features "united" with the comic strip monarchs of King Features Syndicate in this mod odyssey!

Starting off in a sealed off place underneath the sea called Pepperland filled with music-loving folks that gets invaded by the music-hating Blue Meanies. Using unconventional methods of attack like a giant flying glove and multiple-headed canines, the Blue Meanies take over Pepperland quite easily, leaving only the newly promoted Fred to captain of the flying vessel, the Yellow Submarine. Fred goes to London to randomly fetch the Beatles for help. The Fab Four use the sub to go through various areas under the ocean, each with their own bizarre set of physics like time moving backwards and lands filled with mismatched monsters. They befriend an eccentric genius named Jeremy who helps the crew fix their sub, and then joins them on their journey to Pepperland. The Beatles revive the Pepperlanders by impersonating the legendary Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, that they later discover are actual counterparts to themselves, and then pacify the Blue Meanies to being friends. John, Ringo, Paul, and George then somehow make it back home for their only actual live-action segment to close out the film.

Unknown to several people at the time, The Beatles themselves didn't actually provide the voices of themselves in the movie for the animated portions of it, just the music, including three new songs premiering in this film. Yellow Submarine was animated mostly by Jack Stokes and Robert Balser(who also worked on Heavy Metal and Narnia), and their legacy has influenced artists like Monty Python's Terry Gilliam, to American productions like Sesame Street and Schoolhouse Rock. It might seem to stretch it's "creativity" at times, like when they literally take over a minute to just countdown in non-animated letters during the When I'm 64 portion, and it takes a sharp mind for modern audiences to catch all the slurry 60's esoteric dialogue. Aside from that, Yellow Submarine is a must-watch for any wannabe animation aficionado, or fan of the 60s Three B's!

Saturday, June 30, 2018

ANI-MOVIES, *Lego DC Comics Super Heroes: The Flash

Set in the same universe as the Batman Lego video game trilogy, the Lego DC Comics are set in their own continuity not connected to The Lego Movie or The Lego Batman Movie. This was even established in the Lego Dimensions game where the Batman Lego beats the Lego Batman, and you play the rest of the game as that version of Batman. So, with the success of The Flash show set in the "Arrowverse", and the possibility of a Flash spinoff of the Justice League movie, they though giving the scarlet speedster his own Lego animated flick might click with youngsters.

The Justice League introduces The Atom to the team, when Joker takes a vacation in Metropolis, and the citizens with his Joker gas. The League leaps into action(including Plastic Man turning into a helicopter with functioning exploding missles!), but Joker is finally stopped by a tardy Flash. But then a yellow blurry speedster shows up, and forces Flash to keep reliving the same day over and over in a timeloop. Flash finally catches up to him, and winds up several days later. The bad guy is really Reverse-Flash, a speedster from the future who came back in time to ruin Flash's image so people will remember him instead, and he also manages to sever Flash's connection to the Speed Force, the energy that gives speedsters their power. So Flash seeks out Dr. Fate and his dancing student Zatanna to help him go to the Speed Force Zone, and get his powers back.

This was a mostly enjoyable feature, certainly better than the previous Lego Justice League film. It's good for a watch on Cartoon Network, or renting through Redbox or Netflix DVD.

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

MISC. MANGA, *Mai The Psychic Girl

Mai The Psychic Girl was essentially the very first manga to be printed in English for American readers. It was first published by Eclipse Comics, which then lead into the formation of Viz Manga, the first North American mainstream publisher of English-translated manga. Eclipse also went on to print manga like Area 88Appleseed, and Legend Of Kamui, but their actions also lead into the formation of Studio Proteus who provided titles like Oh My Goddessto Dark Horse Comics. So, it's entry into the American culture pretty much paved the way for the booming anime fandom of the late 80s. Written by Golgo 13's Kazuya Kudo, and drawn by Ryoichi Ikegami who also drew the 70s Spider-Man manga, Mai The Psychic Girl achieved a modest success in Japan, but became a massive underground hit among American readers, and was even considered several times for an American live-action movie project.

Mai is a teenager that lives with her widowed father, and appears to be a normal Japanese schoolgirl. However, a secret group known as the Wisdom Alliance has been keeping track of children with the potential to become powerful psychics. Mai happens to be the descendant of a long line of mystic women, and her father is skilled in an ancient form of martial arts. This comes in handy as they are being chased by the Japanese branch of the Wisdom Alliance who send out a giant beast-like assassin to track them down since they both went into hiding. Mai's psychokinesis proves to be nearly on the level of Akira as her flared tempers can result in disaster if not controlled properly.

The manga was first released in America as a 28-issue comic series through Eclipse, then by Viz as incomplete 3-volume graphic novels, but then reprinted as the signature "Perfect Collection" of books, the term for which was used by various manga and OVA series in the 90s. It's still very popular among many old school otaku, but hasn't had much exposure since the turn of the millennium. It's worth tracking down the Perfect Collection editions of this, or at least some of the earlier single issues if you can scrounge them up in a dollar bin.