Sunday, December 23, 2012

MISC. MANGA, *Slayers Special

With the original Slayers manga and light novels being a huge success, creator Hajime Kanzaka decided to go back and cover some of the earlier days of explosive sorceress Lina Inverse before she met up with Gourry, Amelia, and Zelgadis. Prior to that, Lina began on her journeys usually being plagued by the busty bikini-clad loudmouth known as Naga the White Serpent, a skilled-enough sorceress in her own right, but constantly trying to outdo Lina as both a rival and sometimes ally. This portion of the "Young Lina Inverse Chronicles" was first done in a spinoff prequel manga titled Slayers Special. Several of these chapters became the basis for some of the Slayers anime movies and OVA episodes, as well as tie-ins to some of the video games. But this 4-volume manga was the main take on Lina and Naga's whirlwind tour.

Several of the adventures with Lina have Naga tagging along somewhere in each chapter, and sometimes at the beginning of one, but each one is all over the map. From either gratuitous trips to the beach, the search for the perfect cuisine, or being hired to watch over wannabe squires, helping necromancers getting over their fear of zombies, the possibilities seem endless. Some of them later get adapted into OVAs where Lina and Naga are confronted with the true horror of their exact mirror opposites.

There are a few stories that get stretched out for more than one chapter though. Lina and the young soreceress Shia have to protect a dark crystal from a demonic Vegita-looking creep with intentions on taking over the world. Another where our heroines disguise themselves as maids to uncover a plot by some nefarious bandits is a real kneeslapper. Alot of them have Lina being more involved with the Magic Guild and going on various missions for them. Some stories act as callbacks to later chapters, like where Lina has to deal with more than one outlaw using her name which eventually has none other than an early appearance by Ameila searching to being her to justice. There's even an earlier meeting between Lina and Amelia's father, Prince Phil, which is pretty much how it was done in the TV series minus Gourry.

CPM Manga did the adaptation of this, which has some "Americanized" lines thrown in for mostly no reason, and they also sort of broke theire tradition with the first two volumes printed in left-to-right, and then the next two in right-to-left. It's worth getting all four volumes, even though they aren't numbered. Definitely a choice pic for fans of D&D and Asterix.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Happy Holidays


ANI-MOVIES, *The Princess And The Frog

Disney has gone back to its 2-D roots with this fresh take on the story of The Frog Prince. This might be because they wanted to get some additional income from potential younger viewers who just wanna see a good story instead of a whole digital eye-orgy from Pixar.

Set in early 20th Century New Orleans, the hardworking young lady Tiana is planning to one day own her own restaraunt, and it seems like it might finally happen to when her debutante friend Charlotte hires her to help cater her big Mardi Gras reception for a visiting prince. Prince Naveen is from a made-up European country(he's not black, BTW!)who has been cut off from his family, and came to New Orleans to find a wealthy girl to marry. However, a voodoo dude named Dr. Facilier tricks Naveen into accepting a deal with him. He turns Naveen into a frog, and gives his disgruntled valet Lawrence the ability to take on the form of Naveen to try and marry Charlotte. Naveen now as a frog mistakes Tiana for an actual princess in a dress Charlotte gives her, and convinces her to kiss him to break the spell. Instead of him turning back into a human, Tiana is also transformed into a frog, mainly because she's not a "real" princess. The two of them get cast out into the swamp, and befriend an alligator(a not-so-big-lipped one)called Louis who longs to play trumpet in a jazz band, and later on the bayou firefly Ray that believes that a wishing star is his old girlfriend. They take Naveen and Tiana to the good witch doctress, Mama Odie. She tells them that they can reverse the spell if Naveen can kiss Charlotte before the end of Mardi Gras since she's considered a princess during it while her father won the title of King of Mardi Gras. Our heroes make their way back to New Orleans via riverboat, and Naveen and Tiana start to realize their inevitable feelings for each other. While this is going on, Facilier's plan to have Lawrence gain Charlotte's fortune is in trouble because the charm used to disguise his true form has run out of Naveen's blood, so they need find him to complete their scheme. During the chase, Ray gets squashed, and Facilier is dragged to the underworld by his voodoo overlords. Naveen's chance to kiss Charlotte passes, but he and Tiana seem content to remain as frogs. They have a "wedding" in the swamp help by Mama Odie, and then become human again when they kissed since Tiana became a princess when she married Naveen. The two of them manage to open Tiana's dream restaurant with Naveen and Louis playing jazz in it.

This movie was tantalizing in every single way. It's nice to see Disney back in the saddle on that, although I thought from time to time during some of the non-musical scenes was a little lacking in standard Disney-quality. Speaking of the music, Keith David who does the shadowy Dr. Facilier totally kicks singing in his big number. Aside from a few story flaws involving the bylaws of the frog curse, and the tacked on usage of having talking animal sidekicks in a Disney flick, I had a great time watching it. This is probably the best original 2-D animated film to hit theatres in years, and will hopefully push the envelope to do more feature-length like this, despite how "cool" 3-D cartoons are.

JESI THE GENIE, *Part 7: Page 9


Story by Jer Alford. Art by Aimi Tokutake.

Friday, December 21, 2012

ANI-MOVIES, *Sky Crawlers

One of the best non-Miyazaki anime movies I've seen in a while. Sky Crawlers is based on a popular series of Japanese sci-fi novels(not manga!). They were so big, they spawned off a video game, and a manga based on the game titled Sky Crawlers: Innocent Aces. It won the Future Film Festival Digital Award at the 65th Venice International Film Festival, and several awards at the Catalonian International Film Festival. It's credit was due to the fact that the film had acclaimed director Mamoru Oshii(Patlabor, Ghost In The Shell, Jin-Roh).

Set in an alternate timeline, a type of human beings exist called Kildren who stop aging once they reach their teenages. These Kildren are employed by a nation's government to be pilots who engage in arial battles with the rival country. Yuichi Kannami is the newest ace pilot at a military base, of which several Kildren pilots are stationed, along with the Suito Kusannagi who is the pretty but stern base commander. Yuichi learns later on that he is the replacement for a deceased pilot that Suito allegedly had killed, although whether he died in battle or not isn't revealed. Yuichi carries on a relationship with Suito, despite her apathetic nature toward everything, even her own daughter(yep, she's the only Kildren to have a child!). Yuichi also sets his sites on the illusive enemy pilot known as "The Teacher", who may or may not be his father. As the movie progresses, the truth about the Kildren is revealed, that they are artificially-created beings bred to act as sacrificial fighters.

Sky Crawlers is an absolute triumph in animation. The dogfight sequences are spectacularly rendered, and the arial visuals are like nothing seen in any other anime(even Macross Plus). Mamoru Oshii does a masterful job with developing the characters, and is brilliant with establishing the storyline. This movie was a breath of fresh air after alot of the somewhat stagnent non-Miyazaki feature-length anime films as of late. You simply must own this one. I don't care if you like animation or not! You must own it! Go out and buy it now!

JESI THE GENIE, *Part 7: Page 8


Story by Jer Alford. Art by Aimi Tokutake.

ANI-MOVIES, Dirty Pair: Project Eden

Time to take a galactic cruise with the original anime version of "bikini girls in space", the Dirty Pair! Originally done as series of Japanese sci-fi novels, they made their first anime appearance in a cameo in the Crusher Joe movie(which happens further in the future). After that, there was a Dirty Pair TV series, two OVA one-shot specials, and an OVA series. But Project Eden was their only theatrical movie

In case you didn't know, the anime is about a team of trouble consultants for an interstellar welfare originization called the WWWA. The fiesty Kei and the vein Yuri often try to emphasize that their codename is the "Lovely Angels", but their habit of causing unwarrented destruction throughout the galaxy has them referred to as the Dirty Pair. So anyway, Kei and Yuri are assigned to look into the attack of two different nations on the planet Argena that contains one of the galaxy's richest deposits of a mineral called Vizorium which is used to power spacedrives. Their investigation leads to a thief named Carson who they find in the ruins of one of attacked mineral refineries. Then, they're all attacked by bizarre creatures which look like a cross between leeches and the aliens from the Alien movies. Kei and Yuri team up with Carson to find where the creatures originate, a strange fortress belonging to the eccentric scientist, Prof. Watsman. He has been creating a new race genetically evolved from the Vizorium, but they keep meeting in failure. Carson is after him for a special bottle of wine made a few centuries ago that was stolen from him after he stole it(for himself!). After getting a spare arsenal from their loyal cat/grizzly bear Mughi, they fight past the horde of alien creatures and Watsman's butler who apparently was a former Jedi. They capture Watsman, and supposedly take Carson into custody too, but alot of the film was built around Kei and him developing somekind of romance. Before they leave though, they accidently set off a device in Watsman's lab that evolves all the Vizorium, and leaves the entire planet overrun with brutal creatures popping out of the ground.

This was a good outlet for the Lovely Angels, but took them a little more of their normal element. Usually, there's alot more action involved. The first 10 minutes and the last 15 or so minutes are pure great sci-fi action, while the rest of it involves Kei exploring her fascination with Carson, while Yuri is just sort of there. Like most movies that are based on an anime franchise(Sailor Moon, Naruto, Pokémon)the majority of the story revolves around the characters original to the movie, and not so much the ones the series was based on. However, it does work fairly well here. This is still a well animated movie for the mid-80s, and very visually appealing. It was first released on VHS in the 90s through Streamline Pictures, and then picked up by ADV Films a few years ago with a totally different dub. You can find it seperately on DVD, or as part of the Original Dirty Pair: Movie Collection, even though the other two movies in it are actually OVAs. BTW, the Original Dirty Pair is the series from the 80s, while Dirty Pair Flash was the remake video series done in the 90s.

All I want for X-mas is all your teeth!


ANI-MOVIES, *Millennium Actress

From the late director Satoshi Kon is this bittersweet look at the life of a Japanese actress, as her history and past roles blend together into a compelling story. Kon is mostly known for doing psychological titles like Perfect Blue, Paranoia Agent, and Paprika. However, despite bending the laws of reality as much in his other works, this one reaches out on a sentimental level.

Starting off in modern day, Genya is a director making a documentary on the demolishing of a famous Japanese movie studio, and interviews the belle of the movie set, Chiyoko Fujiwara, who is now a reclusive elderly lady. She recalls when she was a young girl and scouted by an up-and-coming movie director to be his latest star. Before her mother consents to her taking up a movie career, Chiyoko befriends a handsome artist who is on the run from the government for being an activist. He gives her a key and promises to see her again sometime. Chiyoko then sets out to be an actress mainly in the hope to find him somewhere while travelling Japan from set to set. While she conveys the details of her search during the interview, it begins to incorporate parts she played in various movies. She goes from being a samurai princess, a ninja, a geisha, and more, all the while only running into the artist once while he's still on the run, and is finally confronted by an officer who has been "Zenigataing" him this whole time. She later learns from him that the artist was captured and tortured to death. Chiyoko then goes on a long running sequence(one of film's several ones)which leads to her remembering her last role as an astronaut who continues to pursue her true love even into the stars. In reality though, she passes away of old age, but reaches a final sense of conclusion when Genya returns her key to her that had been missing for decades.

Satoshi Kon delivers a finely animated production with this, while catering to the rich history of Japanese cinema. It might get a little confusing when they're going from parts of Chiyoko's life to her in one of her movies, plus having Genya and his camerman becoming integrated into them too. Aside from the somewhat dramatic overtones in it, there is also some exceptional comedy. Sony Pictures released this on DVD in the U.S. with only a Japanese track on it, probably due to the fact that the film caters alot more to otaku and those familiar with Japanese culture than your average American, however it's still an appealing film and worth checking out.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

ANI-MOVIES, *Afro Samurai: Resurrection

Dynomite! After about a 2 year absence from the original 5-episode mini-series premiering on Spike TV, Samuel L. Jackson brings back his bad mutherplucker samurai.

Taking place a few years after the first series(although they seem to have forgotten the scene at the end where Jinno had gotten all the other headbands to challenge Afro), Jinno returns in his full Darth Teddy getup and pulls Afro kicking and screaming to his father's grave. There, Jinno's then revealed long-lost sister, the voluptuous Sio robs Afro's father's grave, and takes his skull away, along with the #1 Headband, which Afro spent the entire original anime trying to get. She challenges him to come and get the headband back along with his father's remains. Afro then sets out to find the #2 Headband, with a rematerialized Ninja Ninja(who may or may not really exist outside Afro's head). After an encounter with the last remants of the Empty Seven Clan, Afro tracks down the current holder of the #2 Headband. A killer battle ensues between him and the other samurai during a parade, but Afro defeats him. Then he tangles with some of Sio's adopted family who have been remade into cyborgs by the maniacal Prof. Dharman, who turned Jinno into a bear-droid in the first series. Afro then arrives where Sio told him to challenge her, only to find out that she has had his father brought back as an insane clone who fights Afro, and does in fact kill him. Jinno realizes that his feelings were misplaced about Afro's betrayal, and fights the clone, only to have himself and Sio be killed in the process. The only fortunate part for them is that a spark of Jinno's circuitry shocks Afro's body and brings him back to life, so that he can KILL his father's clone. This follows with Afro handing the #2 Headband over to a child who was in the care of the previous headband's owner that he killed, prompting him to duel him just like Justice did in the original. Speaking of Justice, it looks like they had him in mind for another sequal because the movie ends with him in Hell meeting up with some demon.

Afro Samurai: Resurrection was decent follow-up to the previous anime, although this works better as a full-length movie as apposed to the 4-episode run Spike is rerunning it as. The animation by Gonzo Studio is amazing, with some of the best anime fight sequences in a long time. Gonzo is responsible for working on titles like Hellsing, Blue Sub No. 6, Full Metal Panic, Final Fantasy, GI Joe, and Transformers. The storyline is a little sub-par, and the dialogue is a little too stereotypical in the way Hollywood would expect an "ethnic" themed action movie would be. But if you like the first series, and other samurai/ninja anime like Ninja Scroll and Samurai 7, then the DVD director's cut release of this is right up your alley.

JESI THE GENIE, *Part 7: Page 7

Story by Jer Alford. Art by Aimi Tokutake.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

OBSCURE O.V.A.S, *Street Fighter IV: The Ties That Bind

This one is really obscure, as it was an OVA available only with the actual Street Fighter IV video game, and only the Collectors Edition. First-time directed by veteran animator Jiro Kanai, this was meant to be a slight follow-up to Street Fighter II: The Animated Movie, but within its own given continuity.

Cammy's special ops team of Delta Red discover a weird energy signature in the jungle which killed off all life for several yards. At the same time, Chun-Li and Guile are investigating the disappearances of several prominent martial artists. This all ties to a company called S.I.N.(subtle!)which secretly helped bankroll the reportedly dead Shadaloo which was Bison's old homies. S.I.N.'s top dog Seth has the seductive agent Crimson Viper hunting down Ryu so he can study his special ki abilities. After kidnapping Ken's wife, The Street Fighter team reunites to take down Seth, who gets his ass handed to him by Ryu, but makes a hasty escape thanks to a few of Bison's boys.

This was a fair entry in the whole Street Fighter legacy, although not enough actual "fighting" was done in it. More going over what motivates the characters into why they fight, which was covered enough in Street Fighter Alpha: Generations. I can see why this wasn't released on its own, even though there's enough love for the games that it would've had some success. Hopefully they might release it as a double feature with the illusive Sakura anime movie short that played exclusively in Japan with that crappy The Legend Of Chun-Li flick.

ANI-MOVIES, *9

Originally an amazing independent animated short by Shane Acker which took him four years to create, it was turned into a full-length motion picture produced by Tim Burton with Acker acting as director. This movie basically juggernauts the concept of "stitchpunk".

Set in a post-apocalpytic Earth, the film opens up with a small mechanical humanoid burlap sack(which looks like he's out of Little Big Planet)named 9 awakens in a dilapidated building and finds a strange talisman. After realizing the world is in ruins, he encounters 2, another robot like himself. 2 recognizes the talisman as something special, but gets captured by a large robot cat monster. 9 tries to go after him, but is taken in by the other sack-people, each one of which has its own number. Their leader 1 forbids a rescue attempt on 2, but 9 heads out with 2's friend 5. They manage to destroy the cat-bot with the help of the adventurous 7, and 2 is saved. However, 9 gets the talisman and instictively connects it to a large apparatus called the Fabrication Machine activates and sucks the life out of 2 in the process. 9, 7, and 5 run to an abandonned library run by 3 and 4 where they learn the history of the Fabrication Machine. It was made for a dictator-run country who took it from a scientist to create weapons of mass destruction, which of course later on turn on humanity, where in the end they wipe each other out. The scientist who made it survived long enough to put his soul into to the nine seperate robots which make up the little stitch people. The Machine creates a flying robot to capture the other #s, so they seek to stop the it at its source, but not without 7 and 8 getting captured. They manage to free 7 before torching the place, but 8 gets its soul sucked too. After believing they defeated the enemy, the remaining #s settle back for one of the only really cheery moments on the whole movie, only to find out that the Machine survived, which takes 5 and 6 souls too. 9 goes back to the scientist's room where he first awoke to find the secret of the Machine's power. 9 manages to rip the talisman from it after 1 hastily sacrafices himself. The remaining #s then set the souls of the departed ones free into the heavens.

The movie is a pretty direct adaptation of Acker's original short movie, except it actually adds the other #s into it, and expands on the whole reason for why the world is the way it is. The animation is very well executed in this, although not much on the Pixar level. It might give off the appearance of a stop-motion production, which is nothing new for Tim Burton, even if it seems to help and sometimes hurt the film in when there are times that they could've elaborated more on the plot and characters instead of going from one chase scene to another. But, the characters are really intriguing, and the dark feel of this forbiding world they live in. There's also a fine sense of scale for these diminutive robots in a land of dead giants. It's a great achievement for having an independent production turned into a feature film. The only real major problem with the movie is that it is a little too short, as minus the closing credits it clocks in about 70 minutes, where they could've added a little more interaction with some of the characters and expanded the plot a little more. But, I'd still recommend this for someone looking for a mature sci-fi adventure film, with some great metaphysical aspects to keep the philosphers happy too.

JESI THE GENIE, *Part 7: Page 6

Story by Jer Alford. Art by Aimi Tokutaki.

Anime for the Holidays


These are some quick holiday recommendations I have for die-hard otaku or just general anime enthusiast. Like the Halloween one I did, I'm basically picking titles that you wouldn't have to see several seasons of a TV show to understand anything about the characters or the story that a token "Christmas Episode" of a series would have. So, as nice as the 3 X-Mas episodes of Ranma 1/2 were, they don't help if you haven't seen the whole series prior to that. Anyway...

MY SANTA!

Before he was making assloads of cash with Love Hina and Negima, Ken Akamatsu did a one-shot manga story that was turned into this 2-episode OVA. One X-Mas Eve, a lonely young man named Santa(yep, Santa!)is spending another year without his parents who're out helping unfortunate kids somewhere else in the world. So, he is visited by Mai, one of several teenage girls that works for Santa Claus, since he apparently fired all the elves for sexy Japanese girls. Mai has the power to turn into a tall blonde girl only on Christmas Eve, and takes Santa on a trip around the world to see the good his parents do. We cut ahead a few months later to an obligatory "beach episode" where we're introduced to even more of Santa's little helpers showing in in bikinis. This was a cute short OVA series, which hinted that there was going to be a 3rd episode complete with a giant reindeer mecha fight, but it turned out to be a gag ending.

TOKYO GODFATHERS

While the anime industry mourns the recent loss of creative genius Satoshi Kon, you can enjoy probably one his finest productions around the holidays with this heartwarming film. Taking place on Christmas Eve, a homeless trio finds an abandonned baby, and resolve to locate the girl's parents. During this, they all inadvertently uncover their own pasts, and achieve their own sense of self-discovery. The movie was Kon's third directorial, and really shows how far he had come from Perfect Blue. This is the best example of a holiday-themed anime, although the fact it takes place during Christmas and New Year's isn't an overall scheme of the film, which makes it a great film for any time of the year.

MILLENNIUM ACTRESS

Satoshi Kon's second directorial movie was this one which on its own doesn't have much anything to do directly with the holidays, but it makes for the perfect New Year's movie. A TV director does an interview with his childhood idol, an aging Japanese film idol. While reflecting on moments of her life, she interweaves it with parts she played in her movies as she searches for her lost love. The movie wonderfully captures the passage of time of a tragic celebrity, and how it affects the lives of the people around her. I highly recommend watching this on late New Year's day while you treat your hangover.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Gendo Finish


ANI-MOVIES, *Tokyo Godfathers

On X-Mas Eve in Tokyo, three homeless people, find an abadonned baby lying in the rubbish. The trio: Gin, an ex-gambler; Miyuki: a runaway teenage girl; Hana: a drag queen, decide to find the child's parents. They name her Kiyoko, and then look through some belongings that were left with the child for clues to her origins. A trip to a family cemetery finds them running across a yakuza boss who they help out from nearly getting run over by his own car. He takes them to a club that they found a business card for with Kiyoko, which turns out is where the dom's daughter is getting hitched that day. Once there, Gin realizes that the groom is the man who caused him to become poor years ago from a jibbed bet, but before he can try to get at him, a hitwoman accidently shoots the groom while trying to kill the dom. Miyuki and the baby are kidnapped by the hitwoman, while Gin and Hana seperate after arguing. Gin runs into an older homeless man, and he gets injured while protecting him from some punks. Hana meets up with Miyuki who escaped with Kiyoko, and they go to an Hana's old bar for drag queens, where they find Gin who was taken into care for his injuries. They later run into a woman who appears to be Kiyoko's actual mother, however she's instead suicidal, and it's up to the homeless trio to save Kiyoko in a great comedy/traumatic fashion.

This movie was directed by the late but great Satoshi Kon, who also did the movies Millenium Actress, Perfect Blue, Paprika, and the Adult Swim series, Paranoia Agent. This was a distinct departure from his normal supernatural/surrealistic thrillers. It was partially based on the western movie, 3 Godfathers. For Kon, this was a great piece of storytelling. The characters are very entertaining and believable. His appear to be more realistic looking than most anime characters. Not all the girls are thin with big hooters, and not all the guys look like girls with long spikey hair.

What makes this a great movie for X-Mas is there are so many points in it where you actually believe some of the plot devices or coincidences are genuine "Christmas Miracles". There's so many revelations about the characters lives as the story moves along, and how the all culminate at one of the most satisfying anime movie conclusions ever is really special. The other reason its a great title for the holidays is because its one of the few ones that isn't the special "Christmas episode" of an already existing anime series, and is great to see on its own merit.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Top 3 Underrated Christmas Cartoons


There's lot of holiday specials and obligatory "X-Mas episodes" of a TV series, but some of the best are lost amoung the shuffle. So, here's my top 3 picks for ones you need to check out for the season's greetings:

TWAS THE NIGHT BEFORE CHRISTMAS

One of the few Rankin/Bass specials that was done in 2D was this half-hour short based on the story of the same name. My only complaint about it is that Santa doesn't have a mustache. But really amazing character designs and a very memorable original song.

A WISH FOR WINGS THAT WORK

The only animated production of my absolute favorite comic strip, this took Opus and Bill from Bloom County/Outland in their own Christmas special where the politically-minded penguin asks Santa to be able to fly. Great funny stuff, and a timeless piece from Speilberg's crew.

THE MOST HORRIBLE CHRISTMAS EVER

The last episode of Invader Zim which never actually aired has Hot Topic's most profitable alien duping everyone into thinking he's Santa, and cons them into being festively teleporting to their doom. Where else can you see a giant robot fighting a Santa-tentacle monster? I have to see this at least 3 times every holiday cause its so damned good!

ANI-MOVIES, *Evangelion 2.0: You Can(Not)Advance

Continuing the Rebuild Of Evangelion movie franchise, Evangelion 2.0(or Evangelion 2.22 as shown on the video release)is the second of a 4-part series that remakes the original Neon Genesis Evangelion anime, but adds alot of new twists and elements to make this a totally seperate entity from the TV show.

The sequal starts out with us being introduced to the brand new character of Mari Makinami, who is the pilot of Eva Unit-05, plus the resident meganekko. She tangles with the zombified remains of the 3rd Angel(the first Angel in movie #1)comes back to life, which results in the total destruction of Unit-05 and one of the numerous NERV bases. Cut to Japan where the 7th Angel is attacking Tokyo-3, but is defeated by the timely arrival of Capt. Asuka and Unit-02. Asuka ends up moving in with Shinji in Misato's apartment, where we're treated to a very fanservish-retake of Shinji's discovery of Pen Pen. Shinji is introduced to Misato's ex-boyfriend Kaji, who in secret delivers a mysterious package to Gendo. The 8th Angel then attacks from orbit, and all three Eva units work together to stop it from bellyflopping on NERV headquarters. Asuka actually takes a turn for the different at this point in the story as she starts to opening up to Shinji, and even Rei, more proven with the poignant elevator scene where they both realize they have alot more in common than before. Rei tries to arrange a dinner meeting between Shinji and his father, and invites most of the NERV regulars. Asuka politely declines to be the test pilot for Unit-03, although it gets possessed by the 9th Angel. With Asuka trapped inside, Unit-03 stomps its way to NERV. Unlike in the TV series where Shinji wouldn't attack the evil Eva because he can't bring himself to kill another person(even though at the time he didn't know it was his friend Toji), he realizes that Asuka is in it, and refuses to stop Unit-03. Gendo pulls a supreme act of dickery by switching Unit-01 to automatic mode with a dummy system, and it tears the crap out of Unit-03, even more than it really needed to. I mean, did it really need to chomp the entry plug with Asuka in it? The Angel was already dead by then! Anyway, Shinji quits just as the 10th Angel appears, and Mari counterattacks inside Unit-02 as Asuka is still in recovery. Even going into "beast mode", Mari can't stop it. Rei appears in the still-damaged Unit-00 and tries to shove a nuke down the Angel's throat, but the Angel devours Rei in Unit-00, and then mutates into being part giant naked Rei(shades of End Of Evangelion?). Mari happens to find Shinji, and carries him in Unit-02 to Unit-01. After being bruised, Unit-01 ascends into a higher lifeform, and plows through the metaphysical mush of the Angel to bring Rei out. Now, at this point, the movie looks like its going to end with Unit-01 bringing about a premature 3rd Impact, but if you stay to the end of the closing credits, Kaworu comes down from the moon in Unit-06 and spears Unit-01 with what is supposed to be several Lance of Longinus, which puts the brakes on 3rd Impact, as least for now.

There's alot more progress made in this film in the story and characters than in the original TV series. Asuka seems to have a less traumatic past, and opens up alot more. In other words, Asuka is less of a b-i-t-c-h! Shinji has gained more confidence than in the first movie, but withouth getting all cocky as he seemed to in the series. Rei is less introverted, and shows more than just her "motherly" concerns toward Shinji. The addition of Mari was mostly unnecessary, as the character didn't add too much more to the movie that couldn't have been filled in by any of the rest of the cast, but it is possible that it was done to set her up for a more important role in the next two movies. The animation in this is of course far better than the original anime, especially in the Eva fights. Asuka's "Rider Kick" entrance is pure gold! The dub is still pretty good too, with Tiffany Grant returning as Asuka, and the same from the first movie's English cast. Unlike the initial release of Evangelion 1.0, Funimation went ahead in did the Evangelion 2.22 release with the bonus features included, instead of just the regular 2.0. If you can stand to wait the extra 3-4 years it'll take to catch the rest of the new Eva movies, then you'll want to grab Part Two.

Monday, December 10, 2012

ANI-MOVIES, *Tinkerbell

Where as most Disney's direct-to-video followups to their feature films are rarely treated with any real care, this prequal to the original Peter Pan animated movie was actually pretty good. Tinker Bell was first put together mainly as a vehicle for the Disney Fairies product line which includes Tink and several other original fairy characters. This was mostly a response to several other shows that were out at the time like Winx Club and W.I.T.C.H. which featured teenage girls who transformed into fairies(which on their own were semi-ripoffs of Sailor Moon). It's a step up from the other Disney movie prequals/midquals/sequals to as it was the first one to be done in digital 3D.

This is essentially Tink's origin story. She is "born" from the laugh of a baby and first appears in the fairy home of Pixie Hollow which is part of Neverland. She is greeted by the other fairies, and learns that every one of them has a specific talent that is categorized into different types(water, animal, light, etc.). Tinker Bell is classified as a tinker fairy whose job it is to create and fix tools for the other fairies. At first she doesn't seem to mind it, but after meeting the spiteful garden fairy Vidia, she is told that tinkers aren't allowed to go to the mainland as only the nature fairies are sent to prepare the rest of the world for each season. Determined to prove that she's more than just a tinker, she tries to learn the nature magic skills from some of the other fairies. She fortunately has gained many quick friends, each one with their own type of power, but unfortunately its a power each one is born with and can't be learned. While begging Vidia for trying to learn her skill, she cons Tink into collecting runaway thistles, which end up wrecking most of Pixie Hollow and the fairies' plans for the changing of winter to spring. Mulling over the mistakes she's made, Tink uses her tinker skills to quickly craft some tools that will help repair all the damage she caused, which also increases the production of the fairies' season changing. Tink is then allowed to go to London with the rest of the fairies acting as a finder of lost treasures for humans, where she delivers a music box she fixed to a certain young girl(that she tries to have killed at least twice later on!).

I have to say I was pleasantly suprised by this when I caught on in TV. The story was good, and even though it was intended for younger girls, it wasn't done with a bunch of fairies singing ridiculous songs every five minutes, and going on about chocolate and boys. It also isn't some sappy romance where Tink is trying to find her token "Prince Charming" like other Disney heroines, although she does develop a small friendship with one of the boy fairies that's covered more in the sequal, Tinker Bell And The Lost Treasure. The only problem I felt was I don't see where Tink goes from being only slightly agitated from time-to-time, to being the full blown vidictively jealous boy-stalker that we see in Peter Pan. No mention of Pan or Capt. Hook is mentioned in this, but there are at least three more sequals being planned, all of which supposedly take place before Peter Pan. The computer animation in this is also exceptional, considering its not done by Pixar. The vocal cast is pretty impessive too with Anjelica Houston, Raven-Simone, America Ferrera, and Lucy Liu doing most of the fairy regulars, and Mae Whitman is suprisingly good as Tink considering this is the first time she ever talks in a movie. Your daughters or nieces should enjoy this as a nice gift, and worth watching on your own if you're a regular Disneyphile.

MISC. MANGA, *Clockwork Sky

Another steampunk tale from Madeleine Rosca, this follows the dark but meant for younger readers theme that her previous manga-styled series of Hollow Fields did. Clockwork Sky(no relation to the RPG)takes a new look on the Victorian Era in England, but without that pesky Sherlock shoving his ego into it.

Set in 1895 London, the celebrated scientist Erasmus Croach is the creator of a brand new line of mechanized substitutes of the ever-increasing rebellious lower class for the convenience of the snobby upper class twits. His first working model for the police forces is the steampunkish Astro Boy clone, Sky, that the police hope will help them solve the mystery of the city's missing children . Croach's is also "burdened" with having to take care of his inquisitive niece Sally, who is just as much of a genius that her uncle is. She rigs a motorized velocipede(19th Century motorcycle), and enrolls in special underground racing done in the sewers by vagabonds with not much to lose. Sky is sent after her, and causes her to crash into hidden chamber. There, the two of them discover a mound of childrens corpses which are being used for parts of Croach's automatons.

This isn't a bad manga, although I personally think it's a little too much trying to cash in on the whole steampunk phase that a lot of the American manga publishers seems to be going through lately. It's separate from what Rosca did in Hollow Fields which had a Tim Burton-meets-The Muppets feel, and this a Girl Genius taste to it. It would be helpful to expand more on Sally's background and how she instinctively knew how to put together her own working Victorian motorcycle from scratch. Anyway, it's more than likely to develop with further volumes, and possibly worth waiting for a collected edition.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

ANI-MOVIES, *The Thief And The Cobbler

Originally released in U.S. theatres as Arabian Knight, and also known in other parts of the world as The Princess And The Cobbler, this movie was actually in production for nearly thirty years. First spearheaded in the 60s by Richard Williams who was the animation director for Who Framed Roger Rabbit and the Raggedy Ann & Andy movie, The Thief And The Cobbler went from one production period to another. It was first going to be finally be released in the early 90s by Warner Bros., but that deal fell through when it wasn't done on time. So Williams did two versions of this, one in America as Arabian Night through Miramax, and as Princess And The Cobbler as another, each edit is supposed to be radically different from the other.

Set during the time of the Arabian Nights, an army of evil warriors called the One-Eyes(because they all have one of their eyes poked out)is making their way to Bagdad which is also referred to as the Golden City. Living there is a simpler cobbler named Tack, who after encountering the unnamed Thief in his shop stumbles into the grand vizir, Zigzag(voiced by the late Vincent Price, which was his last movie role). Ziggy brings him to the king to be executed, but the luscious Princess Yum-Yum takes a serious shining to him, and saves him by claiming she needs a shoe repaired. Meanwhile, the Thief sneaks into the palace to try and steal three gold balls that are placed on top of a high tower which are prophecised to protect the city from evil. Tack runs into ZZ again and has him put in prision. Thief manages after several Wile E. Coyote-type attempts to finally get the balls, just as a messenger comes to inform the king of the oncoming One-Eyes invasion. When Zigzag's posse gets the balls for him after the Thief drops them, he uses this as a chance to have the king let him marry the princess. After being rejected, Zigster takes the balls to ally himself with the One-Eyes. Yum-Yum then goes with Tack on a quest to get advice from a reclusive witch who lives in the desert to find out how to stop the One-Eyes, al while being followed by the Thief. Along the way, they run across some melodic desert punks who were formally with the army, that Yummy adopts as her royal guard. They get to the witch who tells them to attack the One-Eyes when they come. Double-backing it to Bagdad, they arrive just as the One-Eyes unleash their gigantic war machine on the city. Tack realizes that the witch ment to use "a tack" though, and throws a tack at the soldiers which ricochets off several soldiers and eventually causes the war machine to fall apart, although the Thief's attempts to get the balls back from it help bring it down too. Tack is seen as a hero, marries Yum-Yum, and the Thief tries to make off with the closing credits.

This film has some serious design clashes in it, but in a good way. It goes the way of generic Disney style, but is more heavily based on the United Productions of America animation who did Mr. Magoo. The main draw was the esthetic use of perspective involved in some of the shots to provide an almost 3-D effect when watching it. When Disney more or less took the film from Richard Williams when they released it through Miramax, they gave it a new edit and some new voice overs. They added Johnathon Winters as the Thief(in inner monologue only), and Matthew Broderick as Tack, even though in the original dub he was voiced by Sean Connery. After lots of ups & downs with Disney, Williams finally decided to release it as a non-profit bootleg titled The Recobbled Cut. It's visually a wonderful film, and worth owning anyone who can appreaciate a great animated legacy.

JESI THE GENIE, *Part 7: Page 2


Story by Jer Alford. Art by Aimi Tokutake.

Friday, November 30, 2012

ANI-MOVIES, *Armitage III: Poly-Matrix

Coming out a year before the Ghost In The Shell movie, this was one of the quintessential cyberpunk anime movies. Originally, Armitage III(not the "third" in a series, BTW)was a 4-episode OVA which blended Total Recall and Blade Runner. It was later put into this compliation movie, Poly-Matrix, which was redubbed with Elizabeth Berkley and Kiefer Sutherland cast as the main characters.

Taking place in the mid-21st Century, mankind has begun populating Mars. Ross Syllibus is a cop from Earth who transfers to the Martian police, but on the flight in, a female country singer is killed. The scantily-clad policewoman, Naomi Armitage, trails the killers in the terminal and abruptly meets Ross, although the main killer, Rene D'anclaude, escapes. The singer is revealed to actually be an android, first confused with one of the types called the "seconds", but she is really a "third" which is a female android totally identical to humans, and capable of giving birth. Armitage and Ross are assigned with bringing in D'anclaude. They track him down, however, Armitage is shown for being a third herself, and goes missing after D'anclaude arrest. More thirds keep getting killed, so Ross continues to search for their killer, and comes across Armitage along with a supposed male third. Another D'anclaude then attacks them, who it turns out is a second. Armitage and Ross then raid a hospital the original D'anclaude is in, and discover the creator of the thirds(and Armitage's father), Dr. Asakura, is lying in a compound in the Martian desert. They find him there along with a reprogrammed D'anclaude second. While there, Armitage and Ross admit their true feelings for each other, only to have to take on the Earth army the next day who bomb the compound. The two of them survive, and Armitage somehow realizes that she's now pregnant.

This compilation movie wasn't bad, as compared to some other ones like the Mobile Suit Gundam trilogy, and Gundam Wing: Endless Waltz. However, its a step above some of the shameless "movies" that were released in America that were actually just OVA episodes strung together in a single movie like Sonic The Hedgehog or Tekken. The original Armitage III OVA series is probably a better representation of the anime than Poly-Matrix, not to mention the dub is better too. It has the same voice actors in each one, aside from Berkley performing flatly as Armitage, and Sutherland as Syllibus sounding like he didn't really care about what he was doing. As a movie, there were some scenes left out from the OVA for time, even though there was an original opening and closing to it. You'll getta better feel for the series over the film though. It's also worth checking out the sequal movie, Armitage III: Dual-Matrix which was a fair conclusion to it.

You know its Christmas time when they decorate the Gundams


Thursday, November 29, 2012

ANI-MOVIES, *Ghost In The Shell

You can not talk about cyberpunk without bringing up this one! This is the movie that even anime haters have seen and liked. Mamoru Oshii, director of Sky Crawlers and Patlabor pioneered anime sci-fi in the 90s with this film adaptation of Masamune Shirow's manga series.

Set in a future where androids and cyborgs are commonplace, a special Japanese enforcer unit called Section 9 gets called into handle cybercrimes and sticky foreign affairs. Matoko is a major on this team, and she and her partner Batou get called into handling a case on the illusive hacker known as the Puppet Master. After trailing some unsuspecting garbage collectors, they think they have their man, but he turns out to be another puppet himself. Then, a robot body escapes from a government cybernetics lab, and is brought into Section 9 headquarters. Two agents from the rival Section 6 show up to claim it saying that was now hosting the cybernetic essence referred to as a "ghost" of the Puppet Master. It reveals itself to be a living entity that was created by Section 6 to control people's ghosts, and its come to Section 9 seeking asylum. Commandos make off with the body, so Matoko and Batou take off after their getaway car. Matoko corners them in an abandonned church, although the car is protected by a robot spider tank(not a Tachikoma, BTW). She almost gets crushed by the tank, but Batou manages to stop it with a bigass gun. Matoko then dives into the Puppet Master, and he reveals to her that arranged all this in attempt to merge his programming with her ghost in order to create an entirely new lifeform. Matoko doesn't get a chance to disagree as both she and the Puppet Master's body's are totalled by Section 6 agents. Hours later, Batou was able to salvage what there was of Matoko's ghost into the robot body of a young girl, although she claims she is now longer Matoko or the Puppet Master, but their composite prodigy. She then leaves planning to spread herself throughout the net.

This movie was one of the few to actually be released in U.S. theatres in the 90s. The blend of computer graphics with Oshii's dynamic animation direction is superb. It's influence is apparent in several other American productions like Batman Beyond, The Matrix and Equilibrium. The film itself spawned off a sequal, Ghost In The Shell: Innocence, plus the Stand Alone Complex anime TV series which has a movie followup and two compilation movies. The original was recently redone in a new version, Ghost In The Shell 2.0, which is the same film, but now with new 3D graphics which add a definate bonus to it, and not in some lame Star Wars: Special Edition way. The dub is pretty good, although most U.S. otaku probably ally themselves with the English cast from the TV series instead. All in all, the 2.0 version is a paramount acquisition for your personal anime ark!

JESI THE GENIE, *Part 7: Page 1

Story by Jer Alford. Art by Aimi Tokutake.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

ANI-MOVIES: *TMNT

Imagi Entertainment's first full-length CGI animated movie before the recent Astro Boy film was this sequal to the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles live-action movie trilogy from the 90s. Despite what alot of people thought, the Nostalgia Critic included, this was not a followup to the 80s animated series, the 2000s animated series, or the abomination known as The Next Mutation.

Taking place a few years after the third movie, the Turtles have gone estranged. Leonardo left to go on a training mission to Central America. April O'Neil is now into trading relics, and while in Central America tracks down Leo, and lets him know how the other brothers are doing. Donatello and Michaelangelo each have secret part-time jobs to make ends meet. Raphael is doubling as a masked vigilante called Nightwatcher. Leo decides to finally return to New York. While this is going on, the Foot Clan is being lead Karai in the wake of Shredder's apparent death who are now working for the rich CEO, Max Winters. Winters is really an immortal ex-warrior king who three thousand years ago opened a door to another dimension that unleashed thirteen monsters into our world. Winters is now trying to collect the monsters who are converging on New York, supposedly because the portal is going to reopen, although it threatens to release an endless army of monsters too. To help him, Winters collects the statue-fied remains of his former war buddies, and brings them to life as living stone. After getting involved in a fight with the Foot's attempt to capture one of the monsters, Leo grows tired of Raphael's stubbornness to listen to his orders. He later finds out about Raphael's superheroing, and they have it out in a fight that's been building for a long time now(ask anyone whose read the original comics!). Leo gets captured by the Winters' stoneboys who want to fake him out as the last of the monsters so that they can keep their immortality. Raph gets Splinter, April, Casey Jones, and the other Turtles to raid Winters' tower while they are opening the vortex. The stone soldiers betray Winters as the Turtles and the Foot team up to stop them. They conveniently manage to find the last monster and send it into the vortex with the others. The Foot leaves promising a possible sequal, and Winters then disappears into pixie dust, while the Turtles decide to continue their crimefighting careers.

This was a good upgrade from the live-action movies, and most of the other adaptions of the comic, but it still carried the storyline from the original movies pretty well. The animation is most impressive, and the backgrounds and character designs are very articulate. I thought the movie was a great extension of the Turtles mythos, even though it might be a little unappealing to non-shellheads.

Joystick

Sunday, November 25, 2012

OBSCURE O.V.A.S, *Queen Emeraldas


One of the more standout "Lejiverse" titles from the 90s was probably this 2-episode OVA series. Queen Emeraldas shows the pirate queen from Captain Harlock in her own solo adventure. Set in the same apparent continuity as Maetel Legend, Galaxy Express 999, and several other Leji Matsumoto anime, Emeraldas is a renegade wanderer fighting for human freedom across the "sea of stars".

Set sometime after the events of Arcadia Of My Youth, a runaway from Earth named Hirono stows away on a space freighter which is attacked by Afressian Empire posing as space pirates. They are stopped by the freedom fighter Emeraldas in her space zepplin, the Queen Emeraldas. Hirono then sets off on a old west-type planet to get materials to build his own spaceship so he can live free on his own, like Captain Harlock. The Afressian commander descends to the planet to pick a fight with whoever stopped their attack on the freighter, but is met with Emeraldas herself who brushes him off. The Afressians then launch an all-out assault on Emeraldas after taking the western planet's occupants hostage, along with Hirono. They manage to free themselves, giving Emeraldas the chance to finish the Afressian fleet. She then has a final duel with their leader, Queen Baraluda. After winning Emeraldas hands Hirono one of the five Cosmo Dragoon laser guns made by her "lover" Tochiro, the now departed creator of the Queen Emeraldas.

This was a great introduction to the Lejiverse, referencing events and characters from the other anime/manga titles. Although similar to Maetel Legend, the second episode falls a little flatter than the first, and feels like it could have just been a single 45-minute long one-shot as opposed a two-episode series. There's some good animation, even though the CGI used of the Queen Emeraldas at the beginning is clearly better than that used in the actual episodes. Worth a look for anyone who likes a decent space western.

ANI-MOVIES, *Atlantis: The Lost Empire

Despite getting alot of flack from animation buffs, Disney made a genuine effort to make a musical-free adventure movie in the spirit of Raiders. Even though very influenced by the works of Jules Verne, and the art stylings of Mike Mignola(Hellboy), this steampunk film was brilliantly animated and delivers in ways that the last Indiana Jones movie didn't.

Taking place in 1914, Milo Thatch is an expert in cartography, but unfortunetly stuck working in the boiler room of a history museum. After failing to convince his curators to investigate some recent findings he believes will proove the existence of the lost kingdom of Atlantis, he is luckily hired an eccentric millionaire who was an old explorer buddy of his grandfather. Milo becomes part of an excavation team going in a totally ahead of its time submarine to find Atlantis, commanded by the opportunistic Rourke. Using an ancient journal, they track their way underwater to a tunnel that is supposed to lead to their goal, but they're attacked by a giant mechanical sea monster and have to abandon their submarine into smaller mini-subs. They manage to find a series of underground caverns, which eventually leads to the actual city of Atlantis. Milo and the others are shocked to discover that there is an actual living civilization of people there who can conveniently speak English. They are turned away by the xenophobic Atlantian king, but his daughter Kida(who is Disney's finest Princess, and the first black one!)befriends the nerdy-as-hell Milo, and together they manage to decipher where the mysterious power source that supports their society, and has kept them alive for the last few millenia. However, its revealed that Rourke and most of his team were really looking for the power source too, which is a mystic floating crystal, and after taking the king hostage, they make their way to the crystal chamber. Kida becomes infused with the crystal's powers, and Rourke makes off with her, leaving the king dying of a gunshot wound. Milo gets some of the remaning crew along with the other Atlanteans to go after them with some reactivated flying machines. After a pretty intense chase scene, they catch up with Rourke and stop him. The crystal is restored, and Kida becomes the new tribal leader. Milo decides to stay behind(who wouldn't want to spend eternity with a hot bikini babe?!)while the other explorers make it back to the surface with a bunch of treasure.

Atlantis was a serious step up from some of Disney's other action/adventure films. Granted, ones like Aladdin, The Black Cauldron, and Treasure Planet had decent elements of thrills & spills, but Atlantis went that extra couple of yards to make it real swashbuckling ride. There's a fine use of CGI along with traditional 2d Disney animation, although its one of the few ones they did in anamorphic widescreen which totally broadens the scope of visual experience for an underwater adventure. The movie also has one of the finest casts in a Disney film, with Michael J. Fox as Milo, James Garner as Rourke, veteran voice actress Cree Summer as Kida, Leonard Nimoy as the king, and Jim Varney in his last film role. If you passed on this film when it was in the theatres, make sure to catch it on DVD(and hopefully soon on Blu-Ray). Even though you can sorta skip the sequal, Atlantis: Milo's Return.

My Little Mecha

Friday, November 23, 2012

ANI-MOVIES, *Justice League: The New Frontier


Based on Darwyn Cooke's Elseworlds mini-series, this was the second of the DC Universe line of direct-to-video animated movies based on DC Comics. The movie has no ties to the Justice League/Justice League Unlimited TV series or the Justice League: Crisis On Two Earths movie. In fact, the actual "Justice League" barely appears in the movie except for a quick shot at the end featuring the founding members of this timeline's JLA.

Set in an alternate 1950s, the former Golden Age heroes such as the Justice Society have gone into hiding after being persecuted by McCarthyism. Superman and Wonder Woman are now agents of the American government, and helping to end the Korean War. Elsewhere, the shapechanging Martian, J'onn J'onzz, was accidently brought to Earth, and assumes the identity of Gotham City detective, John Johns. Former Air Force pilot Hal Jordan is recruited by Ferris Industries, which is secretly part of the U.S. military planning a manned flight to Mars after J'onn's initial existence is made known to them. During the flight, Hal realizes the rocket is carrying weapons to Mars as an accident causes it to explode in space, but he is rescued by Superman. However, J'onn is captured by the government. As this is going on, a mysterious force known as The Centre has been influencing criminals and others throughout the world. Aware of the impending threat, a Green Lantern heads to Earth, but is injured when Hal's rocket blew up, so he passes his ring over to him even though Hal has no idea how to use it. The Centre then reveals itself to be a giant flying island that literally has dinosaurs crawling out if it, and attacks Paradise Island. Wonder Woman barely escapes to warn Superman and the others, but Supes himself is taken down by it. This leaves the task up to the remaining heroes, including Flash, Batman, Green Arrow, J'onn, Adam Strange, the Challengers of the Unknown, and the Blackhawks. With the help of Ray Palmer's(the Atom)shrinking tech, and Hal Jordan emerging as the new Green Lantern at the last possible second, they manage to send the dying Centre out into space. Following this, the heroes are exonerated, and a new team is formed under the logo of the Justice League.

This film stands out pretty well as far as a home video release. The animation is above the par of its TV counterparts featuring Bruce Timm's crew, although Darwyn Cooke himself played a large part in the movie's production. Andrea Romano's selection of voice actors stand out too, with David Boreanaz as Hal Jordan, Neil Patrick Harris as Flash, Kyle MacLachlan as Superman, and Lucy Lawless is perfect as the more-Amazonian-than-normal Wonder Woman. For anyone who has a love for the fantasmagorical style of the Silver Age of comics, this one is a must.

JESI THE GENIE, *Part 6: Page 11

Story by Jer Alford. Art by Isabel Marks.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

*ANI-MOVIES, *Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children

After years of waiting for a followup to their original groundbreaking RPG video game, Square Enix(original Squaresoft)finally got around to doing this feature animated sequal as part of their Compilation Of Final Fantasy VII series which also included two video game prequals, a game sequal, and an anime prequal. Even though it was originally supposed to be about a 20 minute-long feature, but was instead turned into a full-length movie at the demand of the fans. It was animated by Square Enix themselves, who of course also did the original Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within movie as Square Pictures, and was directed by FF regular, Tetsuya Nomura.

It starts off where the end of the Final Fantasy VII game left off with Red XIII doing his Lion King impression, but then cuts back to 498 years later, which is 2 years after where we last left our heroes. Apparently, the Planet survived the attack of the Meteor, although the main city of Midgar was destroyed. So the survivors open up some cheap condos in the smaller town of Edge. Whiny emo-clown Cloud has become a delivery boy and adopted Marlene(Barret's kid)plus a boy named Denzel who is a dead ringer for Roxas from Kingdom Hearts. Cloud and Denzel are suffering from a new disease called Geostigma, but the not-so dead Rufus Shinra really has it bad. He tries to enlist Cloud to help him and some of the remaining badboy Turks from stopping a trio of biker dudes who are apparently looking for the head of Jenova's head. Jenova was the cause of all the monsters and darkness on the planet, and also Sephiroth's "mother". Kadaj, Yazoo, and Laz want to use Jenova's head to bring all the pieces of her together along with children infected by the Geostigma to cause the destruction of the planet. They gather all the children to Edge to try take down a large statue in the middle of the city which they're convinced is where Jenova's head is buried other, and then summon up a horde of demon dogs plus one mutha of a dragon. Cloud along with the entire old AVALANCHE crew show up and stop the monsters, then begin a long chase with Cloud trailing down Kadaj. Jenova's power tuns Kadaj into a resurrected Sephiroth, and he has an epic sword battle with Cloud. Cloud pulls some "Knights Of The Round" attack on Sephiroth which kills him(kinda), and Aerith's spirit makes some magical rain that cures everyone's Geostigma.

This movie was a payoff for alot of the FF-anitics, although there were some complaints about inconstancies in the story, but were more or less resolved in the special Complete edition of the film when it was re-released on Blu-Ray. The first draft of the movie was supposed to be about Cloud with his newly adopted family that he and Tifa put together, but this was later used as the basis for the Reminiscence Of FFVII segment used on the DVD as a recap of the events from the game. The production involved making the characters look as realistic as possible, but still having weird anime hair and overstylized fashion sense. It was a serious step up from The Spirits Within and most of the FMV scenes from the games, even though you can tell that there's still something some lacking in the characters' facial expressions and movement, but still astounding animation. The dub for it though was really bland, where as the voice actors are good in their own rights, they really didn't give seem to give this any real effort. Plus, the dialogue for both the original Japanese script and English dub was terribly mismatched, and if you watch the deleted scenes you'll see that lots of rewrites were done with the dialogue to already completed footage. The DVD release features a short OVA titled FF: Last Order which is a full accounting of Sephiroth's turn to darkness, and his fight with Cloud and Zack, although this was 2D animated by Madhouse. The Blu-Ray release also has another short of On The Way To A Smile which is an original animation based on a novelle that comes with the Collector's Edition DVD that tells of Denzel's origins. The movie recieved a pretty big buzz when it was first released in America, although it was one of those cases like The Phantom Menace where after its initial reaction on the fan market, it changed somewhat after its presence had been examined a little further. Its one of those things where fans get all worked up for an continuation of something they loved, but when it comes out, they realize that its not all they had hoped for. The other major drawback is that the movie is totally useless to anyone who hasn't played the entire original game. However, this should be seen as a labor of love for fans of the game, and something they will treasure(until they get tired of it).

JESI THE GENIE, *Part 6: Page 10


Story by Jer Alford. Art by Isabel Marks.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

ANI-MOVIES, *Fist Of The North Star


Probably one of the most bareknuckle post-apocalyptic movies ever was Hokuto No Ken, or as it was known in America, Fist Of The North Star. This retelling of the manga which at the same time was a 109-episode anime TV series achieved cult status in the States when it was first released on dub-only VHS(and very briefly on DVD)through Streamline Pictures, and then recently on bilingual DVD from Discotek Media. It even spawned off a horrendous American live-action movie that makes Dragonball: Evolution seem almost watchable.

After a nuclear war decimates most of the entire planet, the buff-as-Hell Kenshiro(or usually just "Ken")is the prize student of an elite martial arts dojo, each student of which is given a distinct titles. Ken is the Fist of the North Star, which his other brothers want to take away the role of. Shin, the South Star, nearly fataly wounds Ken and takes away his lover Yuria. Ken emerges a year later even stronger than before, and teams up with another martial artist to take on his other brother Jagi. Jagi is now masquerading as the new Fist of the North Star, so Ken blows his head up with his awesome wa-da-da-da-da-da-da-da attack("You're already dead!). Ken finds out from Jagi just before his head a'splodes that Yuria is with Shin in his stronghold in the south. Meanwhile, Ken's stronger brother Raoh has been gathering an army of extraordianary magnitude, and conquering road warrior-wannabes left and right. Raoh sets his sights on Shin's little empire. After pounding the crap out of his fortress, Raoh makes off with Yuria to lure Ken out. Ken goes after them to Raoh's capital, and he and Roah thrown down in an epic fight the likes of which Dragonball or Street Fighter still haven't been able to match. Raoh leaves Ken after gaining some last minute bit of conscious from an orphen girl, and Ken then pursues Yuria who for no explained reason left on her own. The movie has a strange Waterworld-type ending where Ken thinks he's found an oasis that Yuria has sewn, but it turns out to be an illusion.

This movie has achieved a status with even non-otaku on the level of other anime movies like Akira and Ghost In The Shell. The film has that amazing but still gritty 80s brand of animation. There is some serious gore and violence in it, so fans of Quinten Tarantino will totally gush over it. Admittedly the dub is pretty stale, even for one directed by Carl Macek(history's greatest monster!), but if you developed enough of a resistance to his crap from watching Robotech then this shouldn't be too much of a stretch. It is more of an action film then anything else, so guys, just send your ladies to the mall and watch this sandwiched in between Die Hard and Commando!

JESI THE GENIE, *Part 6: Page 9

Story by Jer Alford. Art by Isabel Marks.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

ANI-MOVIES, *Memories

Katsuhiro Otomo, the creator of a little anime/manga known as AKIRA, made this anime anthology film, Memories. Like other anthology movies such as Neo-Tokyo and Robot Carnival, each chapter in it has a sci-fi element to them.

The movie is split into three segments. The first is Magnetic Rose, set in the late 21st Century where some space salvagers recieve a distress call from an abandonned station inside an asteroid belt. Two of the crew go in to investigate, but find out that it is either haunted by the spirit of a famous dead opera singer, or a deranged computer believing that it is her. The next is Stink Bomb about an employee at a pharmaceutical company who unknowingly takes a drug that makes him to give off an odor that he himself can't smell, but which causes anyone within several yards of him to die of poisoning. The Japanese government along with the U.S. military pull out all the stops to try to prevent him from reaching Tokyo, which makes for some seriously great comedic action sequences. The last one is a steampunk story titled Cannon Fodder set in an alternate world where from the point of view from a small boy, his in entire city exists to make cannons and fire them out on some unseen enemy outside their borders. The highpoint of this that it appears to be done in one continuous take.

Memories has recieved acclaimed criticism throughout the world, and seen as one of the pinnacle anime movies alongside the works of Hiyao Miyazaki, and as one of Otomo's best works outside of Akira. The animation in each chapter of it is distinct onto itself. Magnet Rose give off the erie presence of a ghost story in space, Stink Bomb is just pure thrilling hilarity, and Cannon Fodder blends the concepts of a children's tale and a George Orwell fantasy. The movie was picked up a while ago by Sony Entertainment on DVD, but in Japanese with subtitles only. If you count yourself as any kind of a fan of animation or great science fiction storytelling, then you must see this movie before you die!

MISC. MANGA, *Astra

Jerry Robinson is probably best known as one of the original artists on the Batman comics along with Bob Kane back in the late 30-early 40s, and is often credited as the creator of Joker. However, he also put together a very interesting story for a musical along with Sidra Rausch titled Astra that was adapted into a manga series in Japan in the late 90s. Along with scriptwriter Shojin Tanaka and artist Ken-Ichi Oshi, this managed to get released in America through CPM Manga at first in single issues. The strange thing is though it wasn't completed until it was printed into a trade paperback. This was even turned into a short-lived off-Broadway musical in Washington in 2007. Despite this though, it seems like if Jack Kirby had tried to do a very ecchi manga.

Astra is a princess from the planet Eros which is made entirely of women. She is sent on a mission by her mother the Queen to find some healthy sperm for them to use as they're all tapped out back home. So Astra takes her little spaceship and voyages towards Earth. At this point in human history, space flight is a semi-common thing, and Yosuke, a truck driver from Japan, wins a trip on a newfangled space shuttle. He carjacks the mini-shuttle inside it, and takes a little joyride through space, where he finds Astra's ship. He hops on board and wakes her up from suspended animation. Astra and Yosuke are brought to Earth by the Ministy of Science, which is run by the unscrupulous Godai. Godai learns of Astra's true mission and plans to capitalize on this, even though Yosuke seems to have won her heart. After failing to find any real contenders for a sperm donor, Astra falls under the spell of Godai who hypnotizes her into loving him. Astra's people later arrive on Earth, and are about to take Godai as their new savior, but Yosuke shows up and reveals Godai's scheme. Godai and Astra then head back to Eros to live happily ever after.

Astra is a mixed bag of an homage to Golden Age sci-fi stories, plus a strait-up fan service manga, but they both seem to work rather splendidly here. It seems like something that Jack Kirby might've put together if he collaborated with Japanese creators. The art is very enjoyable, although the translation is a little rough at times. If you dug Buck Rogers or Barbarella, then this is the manga for you.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Which pony is the most "Moe"?

ANI-MOVIES, *Revolutionary Girl Utena: The Movie


Since the Utena anime TV series was such a phenomenon, there just had to be a movie of it too. Originally titled Adolescence Of Utena, this took the shojo-ai premise of the story to full blown yuri proportions. Unlike Cowboy Bebop, Naruto, DBZ, or Sailor Moon, this one is a total remake of the show instead of being a sequel/midquel/prequel. Similar to the Escaflowne movie, this film retells the original plot but in a "parallel universe" sort of way. BTW, I'd like to point out that not all remakes of an anime are parallel universe stories, like Tenchi Universe or El-Hazard: The Wanderers.

The movie sets out with the mysterious Utena Tenjou just arriving at the illustrious Ohtori Academy, the campus of which is designed like an M.C. Escher wetdream. She finds out that her ex-lover Touga is there, who is a member of the student council. Utena then recieves a signet ring from a glowing flower, which indicates that she is now one of the duelists for the hand of the Anthy, the Rose Bride and sister of the student chairman. Utena "wins" Anthy away from the lecherous Saionji in a match after releasing a soul-sword from Anthy's body. The two of them become increasingly close throughout the course of the movie, and way more intimate than they did in the TV series. Alot of hints involving the supporting characters come into play, but these are mostly only relevent if you've seen the original show. Utena is then challenged by the student duelist Juri, although she beats her after tapping into the spirit of Anthy's brother. It is suddenly revealed that the student chairman supposedly killed himself after thinking Anthy had died. Not only him but Touga has been dead since Utena was a child too. This leads to the conclusion that the world the academy lies in is an alternate one from the outside world. Utena decides to leave with Anthy, but is then turned into a car(sure, why not?)! The rest of the film deals with Anthy now driving the Autobot-Utena in a big Speed Racer-style chase where most the other students(dead or alive is unknown)take on the forms of black race cars and chase after them. Anthy is saved at the last second by the surviving members of the student council, but only to have to be attacked by Cinderella's castle on wheels. Anthy escapes the clutches of her brother(who might be Satan!), and she and Utena drive off totally naked into a desolate wasteland.

Okay, lemme first state that the movie sports some really keen animation, although not always in scope with theatrical quality, but a definate improvement from the TV series. At least there wasn't that redundant bit of Utena walking up the stairs to the castle that they used in every freakin' episode! However, trying to grasp the whole concept of this story is harder than trying to figure out the entire Evangelion series while watching it backwards and dropping acid at the same time(don't ask me how I know that). There are so many overlaying themes going on that it would take at least multiple screenings to even come close to understanding them all and how they might possibly all fit together. Utena and Anthy's relationship is amped up to being something more out of a hentai dojinshi than a plot for an official movie. The idea of the world where everything is happening is in itself like the land of the dead is done fairly well, but the rest of the premise for this is really hard to wrap your head around. I'd suggest that watching the entire TV series is a must before looking up the movie, otherwise you'll be really lost.

JESI THE GENIE, *Part 6: Page 8


Sunday, November 11, 2012

ANI-MOVIES, *Wallace & Gromit: Curse Of The Wererabbit


After three Oscar-nominated(and two winning!)short movies, Britain's favorite tinkerer and his much smarter dog at last made their own full-length motion picture. Creators, Steve Box and Nick Park(most famous for Shaun The Sheep)directed it, and the movie was done as a joint-venture between the original studio of Aardman after their success with Chicken Run, plus Dreamworks Animation.

We open up to the small English village that W&G live in where they have opened up a new humane pest control service called Anti-Pesto. Apparently, there is a big vegetable growing competition goin on in this town which is like their Super Bowl, and everyone is obsessed with winning the prize for having the biggest homegrown lettuce/pumpkin/melon/etc. Anyway, Anti-Pesto is keeping all the rabbits they find nibbling on people's gardens at their place, which Gromit uses as an opportunity to try and get Wallace on a veggie diet so he can loose weight. Although, Wallace plans on using a special mind-altering gizmo to condition himself into eating better, but changes gears when a successful run at a nearby estate gives him the idea of using the device for brainwashing the bunnies into not wanting vegetables(so, they were going to be carnivorous rabbits?). As to be expected, in true "wacky inventor" fashion, the machine backfires, and now a monsterous giant rabbit is rampaging the village. At first Gromit suspects its the modified rabbit that they've named Hutch, but its really Wallace who turns into a Were-Rabbit. This all culminates in a grand monster chase at the city fair, and Wallace's curse just somehow lifts itself up, even though Hutch is still somewhat humanish.

Both Wallace and Gromit are in great form in this movie. You would think that taking two characters from a series of shorties couldn't hack it in a full feature, which is not the case here. Wallace is just as eccentric as ever, and warmingly voiced by British actor Peter Sallis. Gromit is of course mute the whole time, but proves that its better when cartoon animals don't talk, and that the Charlie Chaplin school of acting is still funny. Ralph Finnes does the bastardish Victor Quartermaine who is a hunter out to win the heart of the resident nobelwoman, but mainly for her money. Helena Bonham Carter performs as Lady Tottington, the kindhearted landowner who has a softspot for small furry animals. It's weird that Carter did this around the same time that she was doing the lead role in Corpse Bride, which was the only other stop-motion animation movie to come out within the last few years.

The movie itself was set out to be a family movie from the beginning, but this G-Rated film managed to slip in alot of risky material under the radar. The parents will get most of the jokes, although there is some sight gags that are just so obviously funny(the change purse shot will absolutely kill you!). The film homages old horror movies very well too, and did a better job of praising the original Wolf Man movie than the current remake did. This is a perfect selection for Halloween, or weirdly enough even Easter.