Thursday, March 15, 2018

ANI-MOVIES, *Tales From Earthsea

Hayao Miyazaki's son Goro Miyazaki first big attempt at directing a full-length anime movie was this 2006 movie based on the Earthsea book series by Ursula Le Guin, and also borrowed elements from Hayao's early 80s manga, The Journey Of Shuma. So, not a direct adaptation of the Earthsea novels, but a hodge-podge of ideas inspired by it. Studio Ghibli didn't get give this an American release until 2011 by GKIDS largely due to Syfy Channel having its own TV mini-series based on Earthsea, withholding any home video for several years, but did finally get a recent Blu-Ray release too.

In a fantasy alternate world, humans that accepted using the elements of earth, water, and wind were considered wizards, but those who utilized fire were said to be transformed into flying dragons, two of which are seen fighting near the kingdom of Elad. The king plans on investigating this, but is shockingly killed by his son, Prince Arren, who runs away believing he was being controlled by his darker half. Arren encounters a wandering wizard named Sparrowhawk, later revealed to be a former Archmage. He rescues Arren from slavers working for the dark sorcerer Cob, who seeks vengeance against Sparrowhawk for defeating him in a previous adventure. Arren and Sparrowhawk get shelter at a farm owned by Sparrowhawk's colleague Tenar, who also has taken in the orphen Tenar, a former priestess with a shocking past. Cob takes in Arren in an attempt to get revenge against Sparrowhawk, and somehow put together a spell for immortality.

Tales From Earthsea is visually one of Studio Ghibli's fairer films, but the mixing of so many resources and backstories make for a profoundly convoluted production. There's lots of tangled plotlines and unexplained character motivations that require anyone seeing this for this first time to consult an Earthsea resource guide. The English dub is acceptable with Timothy Dalton and Willem Dafoe pulling off great performances, even though the dubbed script seriously restrains their acting chops. It's worth checking out on demand or on Netflix, but due to the sub-standard animation and confusing narrative it's hard to recommend owning.

Friday, March 9, 2018

MISC. MANGA, *Magical Girl Spec-Ops Asuka

If Quentin Tarantino did Madoka Magica, then you'd get this manga. Writer Makoto Fukami(who also workded on Berserk and Psycho Pass) and artist Seigo Tokiya managed to put together an exceedingly dark manga.

During a demonic alien invasion of Earth, a group of fairy creatures granted teenagers special powers to become "magical girls". But instead of taking down your standard monster-of-the-week cliches, they are pulled into a war to push the evil Disas aliens. Three years later, Asuka is one of the few survivors trying to get back to a regular life, even though her parents were brutally killed by the Disas during the war, so she manages her PTSD by attending high school. She makes friends with two of her fellow students, but a resurgence of terrorists using the Disas technology is causing alot of old battle scars in Asuka's life. That and reuniting with the rest of her team, the Legendary Magical Five, one of which might be behind this new crimewave.

This is a slightly compelling storyline, although it tends to jump back and forth from various points of view, as well as whats going on in the current time and flashing back to the alien war. You do get how something as traumatic as being involved something as nightmarish as space invader destroying your loved ones has a deep impact on a young person's life. It works as more of a character study in an otherwordly story than your average sugar sweet shojo story.

Friday, February 23, 2018

ANI-MOVIES, *Only Yesterday

One of Studio Ghibli's less noted films from the early 90's, Only Yesterday was one not directed by Hayao Miyazaki, but Isao Takahata who is more known for Grave Of The Fireflies and The Tale Of Princess Kaguya. Only recently released in English through GKIDS, this slice-of-life feature unlike most Ghibli movies doesn't deal with otherworldly princesses or spirits meddling with the human world.

Taking place in the early 80s, mid-20's Taeko Okajima decides to spend her week off by leaving Tokyo and going to work on a farm with their recent harvest. During Taeko's journey to the country and while she works on the farm, she keeps flashbacking to her childhood growing up with her family, which apparently showed her dealing with being learning disabled which affected her growing as a person, also slightly stunting her maturity as she's still single. While on her visit Takeo also starts falling for local farmhand Toshio, and she keeps conflicting between her current self along with her childlike self from her memories.

Only Yesterday is one of those Ghibli productions that sort of slipped through the cracks by most American otaku as compared to most of Miyazaki's movies, but GKIDS did an above average release of this for English release. Having Daisy Ridley as the voice of Taeko was a good choice as far as popular actors is concerned, plus other VA regulars like Grey Griffin, Tara Strong, and Mona Marshall filling out the cast. Even non-Ghibli fans will find it charming and an animation miracle.