Wednesday, October 31, 2012

ANI-MOVIES, *Resident Evil: Damnation

Since Resident Evil: Damnation achieved a moderate success, the fellas at Capcom decided to do another fully-CGI movie. This one also ties into the continuity of the Resident Evil video games, and totally void of the Paul W.S. Anderson live-action franchise(thankfully!). It was animated by Capcom studios, and Digital Frontier which handles several Japanese live-action and anime movies.

Taking place sometime after the Resident Evil 5 game, zombie survivalist Leon Kennedy is sent into an unnamed Soviet country which is in the middle of a civil war to see if either side is using BOWs(Bio-Organic Weapons)such as the T-Virus. Leon is captured by the resistance and discover that they are using a new form Plaga that allows them to mentally control the wall-crawling Lickers. Meanwhile, RE femme fatale Ada Wong is posing as UN liasion to the country's female president Svetlana, but Ada is really working for a unknown source(more than likely to be revealed in Resident Evil 6. Leon's rebel buddies get taken down by the Plaga-infested zombies, and their remaining leader Alexander uses a Plaga to launch a Licker attack on the capitol. Svetlana's forces are unable to repel them, until she unleashes several of the giant Tyrant monsters on them. Leon and Alexander are ultimately saved by the combined American and Russian forces, which almost seems to make everything Leon went through entirely pointless if they were going to step in and take control of the country in the first place.

Damnation is a definate upgrade from Degeneration in as far as the action and animation, plus this one is actually Rated R so there's alot more blood for your buck. Storywise though, this doesn't have much of an impact on the given series, sorta like an anime movie based on an TV series like Naruto that acts an an outside filler arc. There's still very few actual "zombies" in this, although the showdown between the Tyrants and Lickers is a seriously cool fight. I'd recommend this for fans of the video games, or people who are just damn tired of Milla Jovovich and her Matrix bullcrap.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

JESI THE GENIE, *Part 6: Page 3

Story by Jer Alford. Art by Isabel Marks.

ANI-MOVIES, *Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust


Adapted from the third Vampire Hunter D book by Hideyuki Kikuchi, this was an international production done in part by American anime distributor, Urban Vision. Unlike some other companies, Urban Vision actually put forth its own moola to get anime made, in much the same way they did for Ninja Scroll: The Series. The film was headed up by Yoshiaki Kawajiri, who did the Ninja Scroll movie, and later on went on to do other American-funded anime projects like Highlander: Search For Vengeance, The Animatrix, and Batman: Gotham Knight. This was viewed as being the sequal to the 1985 VHD anime film(always respect the original!!!), although you can watch it on its own without having to see the first one.

Set about 10,000 years in the future, the world is still suffering effects from a nulear fallout that happened sometime in the late 20th Century, and vampires have come out of their coffins to take over. The only thing keeping most innocent humans from being eaten alive are vampire hunters. One of them is the tall, dark, and mysterious D, a dunpeal(or "dhampir"), a well-renowned hunter who is also half-vampire who happens to have a living parasite in his left hand he uses to dispell curses and suck up ghosts. His daddy was actually Dracula, and D tries to defy his bloodsucking nature by hunting down his kind for money. D takes up the job of tracking down the young lady Charlotte who was taken away by the vampire lord Meier Link. Also on their trail are the Marcus Brothers, a team of vampire hunters that were apparently remodeled for the movie to look like the A-Team(I'm not kidding!). Their made of four brothers with their adopted sexy sister Leila, and tour around in their own badass anti-vampire A-Team van. Meier is heading for the castle of the vampire empress Carmilla, D's stepmother that had been killed by Dracula a long time ago. Meier hires the mutant tribe of the Barbarois to protect his carriage on their journey to Carmilla, and they kill off two of the A-Team. Once finally at Carmilla's castle, the remaining Marcus Bros. are taken down leaving only Leila and D. It turns out that Carmilla was using them to resurrect herself from Charlotte's blood. D goes full vampire-Saiyan on her, and then has a last duel with Meier. The movie ends on what is argruably the greatest final scenes in an anime movie ever.

There was alot of changes that were made from the book, like the story was more shown from the POV of the Marcus Bros. instead of dealing with D and his journey. Plus, Carmilla is not in the novel at all, and was added to bring an over villain into the story. The movie has a unique roster of voice actors in it, like Michael McShane(of Whose Line Is It Anyway)as the Left Hand, Pamela Adlon(Bobby on King Of The Hill)as Leila, plus John DiMaggio and Dwight Schultz doing a great job as some of the various cast members. Yoshiaki Kawajiri does a fantastic job on this movie, even better than his previous films. The world it takes place in has a lush elaborate feel to it that slides between dark gothic backgrounds and post-apocalyptic ruins. This was as close to doing a Castlevania anime as we're probably going to get, so for a fantastic vampire action/adventure thrillride, then this should be the #1 choice on your Halloween hitlst!

Sunday, October 28, 2012

ANI-MOVIES, *Cowboy Bebop: The Movie

Since the original TV series was a such a phenomenon, even for non-anime fans, there just had to be a movie follow-up to it. Although like most films based on a TV anime, this one is a midquel taking place between Episodes #22 & 23 of the series. Usually, a movie like is either a sequel or it doesn't happen in the context of the series at all. This is a little rare to have a movie be like a "lost episode" to the TV series.

Set mostly on Mars, Spike and the Bebop crew are hunting for a terrorist named Vincent who plans to use a deadly nano-virus to wipe out everyone on the planet. Vincent was part of a team of soldiers from a previous war on Jupiter's moon of Titan that were subjected to military experiments in nanomachine warfare. This technology was later reused by a pharmaceutical company done in secret for the Martian government. Vincent got a hold of the virus, and is going to spread it all over the planet during a Halloween parade. Spike makes a reluctant alliance with the sexy Electra who is Vincent's old lover and an agent of the shifty pharmaceutical company, and she conveniently happens to have the vaccine to the virus that Vincent gave her without her knowledge. Together along with Jet, Faye, and some retired pilots, they manage to stop Vincent's plan. After all, Spike couldn't possibly die...yet!

The movie employs the same badass animation that made the series so great. Truthfully, it's only a little above the quality that the series had, which proves it's greatness to begin with. Everyone of the regulars gets some screentime, including the three old farts who frequently showed up in every other episode. Edward & Ein have a few magic moments too(beware of angry transvestites!). The climax is awesome too, even more so than Spike's final battle with Vicious. The soundtrack by Yoko Kanno is exemplary, with some hip opening and closing themes. This film also sports some of the best aerial dogfighting in an anime since Macross Plus. If you have the series box set, then you've gotta get this to complete your collection. See you, Space Cowboys!

American Anime Movies That Should NEVER Be Made!!!

Hi. Since Dragonball: Evolution and Priest dropped a whole new pile of fertilizer on the prospects of there ever being an actually good American live-action movie based on an anime or manga, I thought what I'd do is a list of potential titles that genuinely could be done right out here. But first, I figured we should tackle some of the ones that don't stand a snowflake's chance in Hell in August of being made into a even a decent American movie! Oh sure, alot of fans would like to see them do a movie based on this hot new martial arts anime starring so-and-so up-and-coming young Disney-spawned actor or actress. But could alot of these movies ever really get made in a way that wouldn't have every otaku in the country ready to attack FOX with torches and pitchforks? F*ck no! So here's an itinerary of titles that Hollywood needs to stay the hell away from...

BLEACH
Sorry, no. I know the idea of a hardass-but-caring highschool kid who can see dead people, and somehow ends up as a part-time soul reaper might sound appealing. Now, this might work in America if they left out all the Soul Society stuff, where all the shingami are just a bunch of punk-ass samurai who only seem to really care about whose the baddest mutha with an "enchanted sword". If it was mainly just about Ichigo and Rukia fighting ghosts and demons, it could fly. But put in all that unnecessary Yu Yu Hakusho shit, and it just becomes another Dragonball Z wannabe.

DRAGONBALL Z
Yeah, I know. They're already scripting Dragonball: Evolution 2-Saiyan Boogaloo. WTF?! If you were like me and saw the first movie online(this is about the only time that I'd advocate video piracy)instead of wasting a dollar at the $1 theatre a week after it premiered in the U.S., you'd know that a Dragonball Z followup is a complete waste of freakin' time! There are people out there starving in the streets, and you wanna waste good money seeing a shitty sequal to a shitty movie? The only way this would work if it was a made-for-video or Sci-Fi Channel original movie. At least that way the special effects would be consistant with the obsurd premise. If Japan decides they want to do an all-Japanese version of DBZ, then okay. Other than that, FOX better stay the f*ck away!

NARUTO
Forget it! No f*cking way! Drop it, boy! Drop it! There's been so much fan praise for this series, which is somewhat justified since it does have a great concept taking place in an all-ninja universe, despite the infinite number of filler episodes. However, there's no way that this would translate into an American movie. First of all, the premise of training youth to be lethal killers and assassins would never go with your average bible-thumping midwest families, unless the kids were brandishing hunting rifles. Any whiney little blonde kid who keeps going around saying that he's going to be their supreme dictator would get the living tar slapped outta him every given minute. Plus, all the chakra horse-hockey would just go over our heads, and the ninjas defy logic by not wearing black or bothering to cover up their bright pink hair when the go on covert operations. Barring that, it'd just be some lame-o cosplay sketch.

NEON GENESIS EVANGELION
Here's one that's been waiting to get off the runway for a while now. The history is that the American distributor of the anime TV series, ADV Films, decided to spearhead a live-action movie base on it(even though they couldn't even afford the license to the actual Evangelion anime movies!). They're currently in talks with Gainax(FLCL, Gurren Lagann)to get the rights to do the movie, and have gone as far as getting concept art from WETA, the New England production company that did Lord Of The Rings. There's several reasons why this won't work as an American production. One is we simply don't give enough of a crap about giant robots to do a whole movie about them. Transformers was a merchandising vehicle thrown together with several different anime series models. Aside from The Iron Giant(which on its own was largely inspired by Gigantor)there's been no real attempts at approaching anything even remotely "mecha". Another reason it wouldn't work is because of the overwhelming religious overtones. You thought there were people uptight about The DaVinci Code? This turkey would've had the Mel Gibson lobby forming lynch mobs around the theatre. The main reason is though is that no way in the world could they ever get this done in a single movie. With like seventeen angels to whack coming at them one at a time, this would have to at least be a trilogy to do it any real justice.

ONE PIECE
Oh! An anime about pirates? Is Johnny Depp available? Bitch, please! First off, this anime is really more about "sea adventurers" than pirates. They hardly ever do anything pirate-like, instead of looking for the One Piece(of which they have no f*cking clue as to what it is!). Also, nearly everyone in it has somekind of cursed fruit-induced mutant superpower like stretching, or a completely off the charts fighting ability like using three swords at once. It's a good show for young male viewers(aka: shonen), but this all takes place in an alternate parallel universe with all pirates, like Naruto is just all ninjas. It's just to hard to craft this into something that would be tangible enough to hold any water for an American movie. Plus the style of comedy and action is just so over the wall for us gaijin.

POKEMON
What? Are you f*cking serious?! Do you honestly think they'd consider doing a live-action flick about this dated kids show? Um...YES! For one thing, the fact that something is a dated kids show didn't stop them from making movies of Transformers, He-Man, and G.I. Joe. The other is that despite being around for a while, Pokemon is still a popular series with both new and old anime fans, plus kids who just watch it on TV. Not to mention that the card game and video games are still one of the most enduring franchises in the last decade. You can bet someone in Hollywood was thinking kids would eat this up like salsa-flavored crack, and that Spielberg would've sold out to it big time. God knows that they'd have kids from 90210 as Ash, Misty, Brock, etc., and all the Pokemon would be profoundly shitty CGI abominations.

SAILOR MOON
We've all heard rumors back in the 90s about Geena Davis being involved in a movie of this, and more recently Emma Watson. Hell, they even said Joss Whedon was going to be directing this a couple of years ago! Of course the anime TV series had been instrumental in swaying over thousands of American fans to anime, and is pretty much the single most popular "magical girl" series in the entire world, but there's so many reasons why this crawl out here. Mostly because it's too Japanese. How do you explain why they are wearing sailor-type outfits with wonderfully short skirts? Which if you didn't know was taken from Japanese schoolgirl uniforms. Another is magical girl stuff, at least the anime version of it, doesn't really work out here to well. In the five minutes it takes the Sailor Ganstas to transform, the monster would've gutted them alive! Not to mention, our magical girls either kick ass on a superninja level, or have godlike powers from just wiggling they're nose. It's also difficult to work all five girls meeting up and discovering their past lives in a single movie, which you could do, but would look so rushed to fit in. The other thing is that all the actresses they'd have playing the Sailor Chickas would be around 21 instead of 14 like in the anime/manga. Even Japan couldn't work out doing a live-action film, although they did a halfway good TV series.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

ANI-MOVIES, *Dracula: Sovereign Of The Damned

This one is really obscure, but worth looking up if you're an old school otaku, or are sick of all the bishonen vampire anime. Long before Iron Man or Wolverine were tapped to be anime, Toei did this made-for-TV movie premiered in Japan in 1980 based on the Marvel Comics series, Tomb Of Dracula, from the 70s. This had Count Dracula being a regular character in the Marvel Universe who would frequently interact with the other Marvel superheroes like Spider-Man or the X-Men, and it was also the comic where the vampire hunter Blade first showed up. However, this movie has Dracula fighting not the Punisher or Ghost Rider, but Scooby-Doo, Satan, and Super-Jesus!

The story takes place in modern day with Dracula rebelling against Satan because he's the one who rose him from the the dead and made him a vampire. Drac makes off with a sacrifice meant to be Satan's bride, but he elopes with her instead, and a year later they have a seemingly normal baby named Janus. Elsewhere, a trio of fearless vampire slayers are out to get Dracula: Prof. Harker who is the grandson of his old flame, Rachel Van Helsing, and Drac's descendant Frank Drake that was invited along just because he knows kung-fu(whoa!). They're aided by a vampire-sniffing hound that snoops around all over Boston for about a year with no results. Satan meanwhile gets some cult leader to help him revenge against Dracula, although they end up accidently killing Janus instead. Then "God" resurrects Janus as a full grown man in some kind of Fantastic Four-looking outfit, and he then sets out to kill Dracula too. So Dracula and Janus have a little tussle complete with optic-blasts and Pikachu attacks, but Dracula has his powers taken from him by Satan. Now that he's human, neither the Scooby Gang or Ultra-Christ bother trying to off him because they'll only do it if he's a vampire. You don't wanna go to jail for killing a human, but vampires are okay! Drac hoofs it to New York to get his bloodsucker girlfriend Lila(who might actually be his daughter from the comics)to re-vamp him, but she totally snubs him. So then Dracula somehow makes it all the way back to Transylvania despite not having any money for an airline ticket, and fights off a zombie horde created by his old followers. Drac heads for his old castle for which the air inside somehow magically transforms him back into a vampire again. Harker is waiting for him, and he impales him with a silver blade(which would work if he was a werewolf), and riggs himself to blow up taking Dracula with him. This kills him, although in the comics Dracula survived it.

For a comic adaptation, this actually wasn't too bad, aside from the fact Blade wasn't in it concerning the story arc its taken from. The animation was standard for late-70s/early-80s TV quality, although that isn't too much considering studios like Ruby-Spears were a little around the same style. This was released in America on VHS in the mid-80s by Harmony Gold who are most famous for the train wreck known as Robotech. They added their regular staple of extremely bad dubbing on it, and had lines of dialogue that went on forever to fill in the lipflaps of the character, not to mention that the script was soooo corny that it makes Battle Of The Planets sound like Shakespeare. Despite that though, there is no censorship in it with plenty of blood and violence. However, the main draw to this movie is the fact that is an unexpectedly great source of schlockiness that I'm suprised the MST3K crew never went over it. Its great for a Halloween party, or just a drunken Rifftrax run. Where else are you gonna see the King of Vampires enjoying a Big Mac?

Friday, October 26, 2012

ANI-MOVIES, *Astro Boy

While its been statistically proven that there is little love for Osamu Tezuka out here in the States, the God Of Manga is still big with old school otaku. Hell, if it weren't for him, we wouldn't even have anime out here in the way that we do. For a little quick history, Tezuka created this as a manga in the early 50s titled Tetsuwan Atom("Mighty Atom"), and made into an anime series in early 60s, which was the first anime to be shown on American TV. It was later remade in the 1980, and then again in 2003, both of which have also been played out here on TV, although only with minimal success. The original was so popular because of how groundbreaking it was, and was the first real taste us gaijin got of anime. One of the most appealing things about it was Tezuka's take on the old Walt Disney style of character designs, as it pretty evident with Astro's two hair-horns homaging Mickey Mouse's ears. So anyway, trying to latch on to a bit of nostalgia like a ton of other movies have been doing lately(Alvin & The Chipmunks, G.I. Joe,  A-Team, Clash Of The Titans), the crew from the ill-fated Imagi Studios(TMNT)decided to give a shot at doing a feature film based on the American version.

Set in the very distant future, most of the Earth is covered with garbage(think Wall-E), but a century ago some scientists raised a city up from the rubish to live out their lives in a waste-free enviroment, and called it Metro City. They created robots with slightly advanced A.I.'s to do all their work, and toss all their garbage on to the ground below. One of the main minds behind this is Dr. Tenma, but his eagerness to impress the corrupt President with a new military robot causes his son Toby to be killed. Distraught, Tenma makes a robot duplicate of him, but fits him with incredible strength, rocket feet, and a huge arsenal all powered by special energy source from space called Blue Core. The robot Toby figures out he's not really human much to his suprise after listening to some maintenance-bots chatting, and then going on a scenic flight through the city. After being dejected by his creator/father who realizes he's not a perfect replacement for his original son, Toby leaves, but is hunted down by the President's forces to use the Blue Core in their Peacemaker droid. Toby gets shot down to the surface, where he befriends some children scrounging in the junk for robot parts. Although he was quickly accosted by the "Robot Revolutionary Front" and given the new name Astro, he goes off with Cora and the other kids to the tinkerer Hamegg who rebuilds robots and takes care of orphens. Astro tries to hide the fact that he's really a robot from the others, although Hamegg figures it out, and exposes him when they go to the Robot Games which is like a mecha gladiator fight. Hamegg corners Astro into battling a bunch of Mega Man-baddies, and almost has to fight Zog, a large construction bot that Astro brought back online, but refuses to fight Astro. The President locates Astro, and forces him back to Metro City. He has Tenma take the Blue Core out of Astro, but Tenma has a change of heart, and Astro flies away. In spite of this, the President uses the unstable Red Core(the "evil" version of the Blue Core)to activate the Peacemaker, which absorbs him into it, and now the President is in its body. The Peacemaker starts absorbing half the city, and fights Astro in a stupendous battle. This causes Metro City to fall to the ground, which Astro manages soften the landing of. He then runs head on into the Peacemaker, and his energy cancels it out. Althought depleted of power, Zog shows up to lend him some of his excess Blue Core energy to reactive him. Astro is then viewed as a hero by the people, although he gets to pull one real routine right out of the old show at the finale.

Imagi pulled off a very impressive production in this, managing to pull together some of the great action of The Incredibles with the family comedy of Robots. It's unfortunate that it wasn't met with more success at the box office, even to the point of Imagi having to close down their American studios. They were planning on doing film versions of Gigantor and Battle Of The Planets, but no yet word if their Asian branch will complete them. Perhaps it might have done better financially if it had been done exclusively for Japanese audiences first as an adaptation of the original anime instead of the American edition, so they could've gotten most of their production money back. The movie itself is well animated, maybe not totally on the level with most American studios like Dreamworks or Pixar, but definately above your average made-for-video/TV animation. It also features an all-star English cast like Nicolas Cage, Kristen Bell, Charlize Theron, and Samuel L. Jackson. However, the ones who really stood out where Nathan Lane, Bill Nighy, and Donald Sutherland. The DVD/Blu-Ray features two impressive original animated shorts too. Very much worth at least a solid rental for superhero fanatics, and unlike a certain other comic book movie, this one actually had a giant alien squid in it!

ANI-MOVIES, *Mad Monster Party

Most fans of animation will know Rankin/Bass from all their holiday specials, but while they've done productions in cel animation, they were pioneers in the realm of stop-motion, or as they patented it "Animagic". Mad Monster Party was their first full-length film of this type that came out right after their successful Rudolph TV special, and was done in part with a Japanese animation studio that specialized in stop-motion. This began Rankin/Bass' relationship with Japanese studios into various international productions like King Kong Escapes and The Last Dinosaur, and their big hit TV series, Thundercats. However, this wasn't a holiday film, but done as an all-ages monster movie, so Hotel Transylvania and Groovy Ghoulies are just pretenders to the throne comapared to this masterpiece.

Set apparently in modern day, Baron Frankenstein comes up with his own version of the atom bomb in a secret formula. He decides to use this to mark his retirement as the head of the monsters, so he sends invites to all the monsters to his remote south seas island. One invitation also is sent to his human nephew Felix who is totally unaware of his uncle's monstrous background. All the great monsters show up: Dracula, Wolfman, the Mummy, Invisible Man, the Hunchback, and the Creature. After the Baron announces what his plans are, his sexy assistant Francesca becomes jealous and wants his secrets for herself, so she forms a brief partnership with Dracula to get them. Once Felix arrives on the island, Francesca lures him out into the jungle for Drac to whack him, but after the Count fails, she becomes frustrated, and Dracula then teams up with Frankenstein's Monster and his mate(here voiced and modeled after Phyllis Diller). But after jumping out of a window to escape her turncoats, Francesca is saved by Felix, and then falls hard for him. They decide to escape the island when Dracula rallies the other monsters against the Baron. All of them are cornered by "It", which here is King Kong(apparently because they didn't have the rights to use Kong even though Rankin/Bass did King Kong Escapes a year later). "It" gathers up all the monsters and climbs to the top of a mountain, but the Baron sacrifices himself using his secret formula to blow up the whole joint as Felix and Francesca escape. Be sure and catch the hint to Blade Runner though at the end!

Despite its age, Mad Monster Party is an absolute classic. It makes for a great Halloween screening, although I've seen it shown around the Holidays too. It has some truly exceptional animation for the time, and a decent soundtrack. Although the main selling points are the dark sense of humor it carries, and the performances by Boris Karloff as the Baron, plus voice actor extraordinaire Allen Swift as the rest of the entire male characters which includes all the monsters. If you think The Nightmare Before Christmas is the only stop-motion monster mash, then you owe it to yourself to pick this up!

Thursday, October 25, 2012

ANI-MOVIES, *Resident Evil: Degeneration


Resident Evil: Degeneration is the first fully-animated movie based on the Capcom horror/survival video game series. This has NO affilation whatsoever to the live-action franchise starring sexpot Milla Jovovich(Alice doesn't live here!), and takes place in the same fictional universe as the video game storyline.

Happening supposedly about a year after RE4, we meet up with RE2 survivor Claire Redfield, who is working with an enviromental preservation originization, and ends up going to an airport which has been the target of a alleged terrorist attack who are using the T-Virus to make zombies, mainly to get stop a U.S. senator who is working on an act to clean up the damages left by the Umbrella Corp. After getting herself and a few others safely away from a zombie hoard, Claire is rescued by Leon Kennedy, fresh from his European vacation in RE4. The movie then takes a different turn after the first half-hour. Where as the first third is a setup for the plot and a basic zombie "shoot 'em up" scenario, the rest of the story involves an overly-detailed plot about a company called WilPharma which is responsible for creating vaccines to the T-Virus for terrorist outbreaks around the world. Claire goes with the company rep Frederic Downing to their research plant, while Leon heads out with Angela, an SRT officer whose brother Curtis is responsible for the outbreak in the airport. What follows from here is a shutdown of the pharmacy facility, and Curtis making off with the G-Virus(which is like the T-Virus on steroids)that he uses on himself. Leon and Angela just make it out alive, while leaving the mutated Curtis behind to go down with the rest of the lab. Its revealed that Downing set the whole thing up as a sales pitch to promote their vaccine to terrorists who were using the T-Virus.

Alot of what's missing from this to make it a decent zombie flick is the actual lack of zombies in it. After the part at the beginning with the terminal of the living dead, the rest of it just falls very flat as a horror movie. There's also a random zombie bunch that show up in the research lab for about 10 seconds for almost no explained reason, other than the movie hadn't had any other zombies in it for a good 45 minutes or so. Where as the live-action movies derailed alot from the original video game premise, there was at least enough monsters and explosions to keep the average horror buff satisfied. As an animated movie, this is fair. The CGI isn't as good as say FFVII: Advent Children(heck, even FF: The Spirits Within was better!), but just as good as most of the cutscenes in any of the games. If your looking for a truly gory animated movie based on a video game, you'd probably be better off with Dead Space: Downfall.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

ANI-MOVIES, *Coraline


Yet another movie based on the works of comic god Neil Gaiman(sorry, no Sandman yet), this stop-motion animated film was directed by Henry Selick, whose former works include The Nightmare Before Christmas and James And The Giant Peach. It was one of the few movies that he acted alone from Tim Burton from, but was much more successful than his bomb of Monkeybone. Gaiman's book Coraline was largely inspired by Alice In Wonderland, and I'd have say that this film made for a better fantasy/suspense movie for kids that the recent Tim Burton one.

Set in an apartment home in the midwest, Coraline is a bored girl whose family has recently moved into the old estate. After leaving all her friends behind from her former town, she finds her new crib to be slightly off. There's strange neighbors, an enigmatic stray cat, a chatty boy named Wybee(short for Wyborne)and a mysterious door in her living room which leads to a brick wall. One night, Coraline follows a mouse throught the door which leads to an alternate version of her house called the Other World. There, she encounters her Other Mother who runs it, who appears to be a friendlier doppleganger of her real mother. She cooks her lavish breakfast/dinners, introduces her to more entertaining versions of her already eccentric neighbors, and a silent copy of Wybee. However, Coraline soon realizes that this is all an elaborate trap, mainly because the cat in the Other World can talk and warns her. After O.M. tells her that can stay in this world forever as long as she gives up her eyes, Coraline runs away, but gets imprisioned with the ghosts of three other children that had given their souls to Other Mother, who is revealed to be a bedlam. As an extra insentive to get Coraline, she kidnaps her parents. The cat tells her to trick the bedlam into a game, so that she can free her parents and the ghost children. After facing the rather twisted residents of this nightmare as it unfolds around her, she has a final confrontation with Other Mother in her web. Coraline escapes, but the bedlam's hand makes it through to our side. Wybee helps bury the hand in a deep well, and then Coraline has a big garden party with the "real" members of her apartment building.

This was an exceptionally creepy movie, but in a good way. Henry Selick manages to make this a hauntingly great experience, and definately not one for toddlers to see before hitting the hay. It was all done painstakingly with a large group of devoted animators whose efforts really paid off in the final product. The use of 3D is well done too without being looked at like some kind of gimmick, although its effect while watching it on TV is debatable. Regardless, this film should add to Selick's ongoing career as he's now signed on with Disney to do more feature films.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

JESI THE GENIE, *Part 6: Page 1

Story by Jer Alford. Art by Isabel Marks.

What's So Great About INFRAMAN

Hi. I thought I'd review an overlooked gem amoung the vast geek "Sea of Stars". For me, one of the most badass underrated movies from the 70s is this kung-fu superhero sensation!
Inframan(or "Super Inframan")was a live-action film put out in 1975 by the Gods of Kung-Fu cinema, the Shaw Brothers! It was an original movie not based on an anime/manga, but largely inspired by tokusatsu shows, mainly Kamen Rider. It even features music from Japanese shows like Ultra Seven. Quite a few of the martial artists in it were coming out of the Bruceploitation era of the early 70s, but there's some genuinely good fights in this, superhero-style!

The movie is about an evil dragon creature called Princess Dragon Mom(love that name!)who can take on the form of a sexy blonde, and she raises her army of kaiju rejects and gang of Ghost Rider clones to try and take over the world. The brilliant scientist Professor Chang decides to counter this invasion by creating a bionic man, so officer Rayma from the Science Patrol(no relation to the Ultraman one)volunteers to get the Robocop treatment. Rayma becomes Inframan, who can transform into robotic hero with super-strength, super-hearing, lasers, mini-missles, jetboot kicks, rocket punches, and energy blades. His coolest power is turning into a giant and squishing one of the monsters like a roach! In the end, Inframan has to rescue the Prof. and his whiny daughter from Dragon Mom's lair in a kickass scene where all the Science Patrol dressed in Evel Knievel battling the Ghost Riders.

WHAT'S SO GREAT ABOUT IT?

There is some killer fight scenes in this, and all done in glorious "wha-ta-ta-ta-ta"! The campy flavor of the 70s is in full swing too with corny dialogue and goofy-looking monsters. The English dub is unintentionally hilarious, and totally worth watching over the original Chinese language. The Shaw Bros. brought all their greatness to this with some of the best sentai action ever. This movie is a primo candidiate for your next MST3K session!

Monday, October 22, 2012

ANI-MOVIES, *Slayers: The Motion Picture


Where as most anime movies based on a TV series act as either a midquel or sequel, the first(of five)Slayers movies was done as a prequel. This movie(known as Slayers Perfect in Japan)takes place during the time of Slayers Special which was all about a slightly younger and brown-haired Lina Inverse who tours around with the egotistical sorceress, Naga the Serpent(aka: Princess Amelia's missing older sister!). Although this film seems to take place sometime after the Slayers Excellent OVA series which showed how Lina and Naga first met up.

Lina runs into Naga again, and the two of them luck out by lifting some tickets from bandits to the resort island of Mipross, which sports some special hot springs(no, not like in Ranma 1/2!). Once there, they have to deal with one "strongest man on the island" after the other. They make their way to the hot springs which Naga exposes as a fake. It's proprietor takes retribution by using his water-bending magic to get back at them, but Lina & Naga's combined skills stop him. After taking him to the local king for a reward, they learn that the King and Queen have been plagued with dreams featuring an old mage. Lina herself has been pestered in her sleep by the same wizard, Rowdy Gabriev, who is really the ancestor of Lina's future-drinking buddy, Gourry. She and Naga investigate some old ruins where the King informs them that a powerful demon has been wreaking havoc, and the head of all the evil dicks that they've run into on the island. The demon is Joyrock, a reptilian monster that has gathered alot of mana over the centuries since he killed off a bunch of elves who lived on Mipross, and Rowdy became a mage since then trying to find a way altering time so that Joyrock never succeeded in the first place. After sacrificing himself, he manages to send Lina back in time, and she Dragonslaves Joyrock out of existance. Lina and Naga come back to find that the island is now very prosperous as if its dark past never happened, although the two of them remember everything that happened. Lina also gets short-changed with no reward to speak of, and Rowdy gyps her too with the promise of a "growth-enhancing" magical spring, which she hoped to use on her notoriously small cleavage.

This movie featured some improved animation than that of the TV series. Then again, alot of anime shows from the mid-90s were seriously lacking in good animation. It was directed by Hiroshi Watanabe who went on to do the rest of the Slayers Special anime titles. ADV Films released in the States, and it featured a different dub from the TV show. Cynthia Martinez made her anime debut as the American actress of Lina, and Kelly Manison pulls of a convincing Naga, laugh and all! On its own, this makes for a pretty decent movie, even if you've never seen any other Slayers material prior to it. The only thing that never comes up from this is Lina ever mentioning to Gourry in some of the later episodes of the TV series that she met his great-great-great-etc.-grandfather. Anyway, like most Slayers stories, it is a perfect stab at the entire RPG fan genre. Anyone who thinks D&D players take their "craft" way to seriously should strap them down and force them to watch this movie Clockwork Orange-style!

OBSCURE O.V.A.S, *Legend Of Lemnear


If you're a fan of Frank Frazetta, or sexy fantasy/adventure, then this is totally up your alley. Legend Of Lemnear was a 3-volume manga by Plastic Little creators Kinji Yoshimoto and Satoshi Urushihara, and was later adapted into this 45-minutes OVA.

Set in a Conan-styled world, Lemnear is a bikini-clad warrior woman on a pterodactyl searching the landscape for the evil wizard Gardein that killed her family. This leads her to a city in the middle of the desert ruled by a lard-ass sultan who has the most bitchin' topless harem ever, but is also in the pocket of Gardein, and his master, the Dark Lord Varhol. Lemnear gets caught, and enslaved by the evil sultan, but encounters an old Gandalf dude who tells her she is the "Champion of Silver", and presents her with a magical necklace. After being temporarily hypnotized by the sultan, she breaks free and heads out after Gardein. She flies up on her big bird, and follows him to a giant floating fortress which is Varhol's lair. He absorbs Gardein into himself revealing that he was really a part of him all along, and that he is was the Champion of Gold. His plan was to absorb Lemnear and her captured friend Messhu(who is the Champion of Bronze)to become all powerful. Varhol then morphs into a two-headed dragon for a fight that Dirk the Daring would've survived. But Lemnear escapes with Messhu on her pterodactyl, and Varhol morphs again into a stone giant the size of a skyscraper. It takes the combine powers of Silver and Bronze to finally smite him down.

Urushihara did some amazingly vibrant artwork for this, and there is truly vivid animation by AIC, whose work is seen in numerous anime movies and OVAs to this day. Most people think there's alot of similarities between this and the Taarna character from the Heavy Metal movie, mainly that she's a hot white-haired Red Sonja girl with flying dinosaur in a desolate wasteland, although this one is more fantasy-based, and is way heavier into fan service. It doesn't have much in the ways of substance, but is pretty good at least for fans of old Japanese NES fantasy games.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Instrumentality Is Magic

ANI-MOVIES, *Wizards

Before James Cameron's Avatar, "master of animation" Ralph Bashki did his own take on science vs. nature. What was 20th Century Fox's very first full-length animated motion picture, Wizards proved to be a success in its own time, and a cult classic for decades to come.

Set in a post-apocalyptic Earth, humanity was killed off because of a nuclear war. The eldritch races then come out of hiding, including elves, fairies, and dwarves. During this revival of magic, two brother wizards fued over the control of power. The evil wizard Blackwolf takes over the land of Scortch where goblins and mutants dwell, while his peaceful brother Avatar protects the fairy realm of Montagar. Blackwolf plans to take over Montagar by sending robot assassins out to kill of its leaders. The robot Necron 99 terminates the fairy president, but is taken out by Avatar, who reprograms it to be "Peace", a reformed robot to lead them through to Scortch. Along on their quest comes the elf ranger Weehawk and the boobalicious fairy princess Elinore. Blackwolf has in turn dug up some old Nazi propaganda movies to motivate his troops and stun the opposing forces of elves and dwaves. After run-ins with Blackwolf's assassins and some pesky fairies, Team Avatar takes shelter with the dwarf army. However, Elinore is entranced by Blackwolf's evil and kills Peace. Avatar thinks that she has betrayed them, and gets all emo as he and Weehawk continue on their mission. They split up, where Weehawk learns of Elinore's enslavement and frees her, while Avatar confronts Blackwolf for the last time. Not to give away the ending, but Avatar's coup de grace on Blackwolf is just perfect! Anyway, the forces of good win, and Avatar shacks up with Elinore(lucky bastard!).

This was Bakshi's first fantasy movie, which lead into his directing the original animated Lord Of The Rings movie. Wizards also marked the beginning of his use of rotoscope which merges live-action footage with animation. This works sometimes during some of the battlefield scenes, but does get a little tedious at parts. Another way of getting around actually animating some parts was to include comic-like illustrations to narrate the story, including some by Marvel Comics artist Mike Ploog. Bakshi insists that this was a family film, although there is a good amount of gore, nudity, and sexual innuendo(not that I'm complaining!). Wizards sports some great character designs and backgrounds, even though they seem slightly Tolkien-based, which arguably went on to inspire the style used in the Elfquest comic book series which debuted about two years after this movie. I highly recommend this movie for those who want a look into early 70s animation, and for some great fantasy storytelling!

Top 10 Anime Villains


There's plenty of baddies in anime, so here's my own personal list from the P.O.V. from an oldschool otaku:

10. COUNT CAGLIOSTRO (Lupin The 3rd-Castle Of Cagliostro)
This dude is in there just because he fills the part of the stereotypical mustache-twirling jerk so well. He rules over his country with an iron fist in a way that'd make Dr. Doom proud. Plus, he's such a sneering self-absorbed pedophile, you almost have to accept that as meritable. You'd think the nations of the world would've realized that he's evil simply by the way he dressed up like a supervillain at his own wedding!

9. CAPTAIN GINYU (Dragonball Z)
While most dudes would vote for Frieza or Cell as their fave DBZ @$$hole, the head of the Ginyu Force wins points for totally puting down Goku. He leads Frieza's main assassin squad, and makes them out to bne like they're a team of superheroes by doing Power Rangers poses. Ginyu can switch bodies, which he does with Goku after he wounds himself and takes over his near-Super Saiyan self. Too bad he ends up as a frog.

8. JOKER (R.O.D. The TV)
While as in the original Read Or Die OVA series he seems like he's the main leader of the good guys(the British Library), in the TV sequal its revealed that they only reason they were trying to save the world in the first place is so they can take it over themselves. Joker is a manipulative, deceptive, slimy bastard who uses his position to slowly advance the British Library from not only taking over the world, but completely altering reality to their whims.

7. TEAM ROCKET (Pokemon)
These guys are here purely for tenacity. While chasing their prey far beyond the point that Wile E. Coyote would've given up on, Jesse and James have continued to chase the dorkiest kid in anime and his freakishly-large rat for over 12 seasons. While using every disquise in the book, and digging more holes than in every golf course in the country, they just won't give up! That's at least worth a merit badge.

6. SOSUKE AIZEN (Bleach)
While I'm not the biggest fan of Bleach, this sonovabitch totally made an impression. Aizen starts out seeming like the nicest guy in the Soul Society, but gets brutally murdered. Turns out he faked his own death, kills his loving subordinate, and grabs the ultimate power in the afterworld. Aizen then descends to the world of the hollows(evil spirits), and takes them over. He creates vast illusions to have his enemies fight among themselves to lead them away from him obtaining his goals. Very dangerous!

5. DR. HELL (Mazinger Z)
The original anime mad scientist! Before Dr. Wily, Dr. Hell was the first creator of evil robots. He stole the technology to make monster mecha from some ancient Greek ruins(they had giant robots back then?), and then makes a secret island fortress to house his army. He keeps trying to destroy the super robot, Mazinger Z, but keeps failing to do so. Then he apparently dies, but comes back to fight the more upgraded Great Mazinger in the most powerful robot yet. The story then reboots him in the Mazinkaiser anime, but more like an even more vile version from the original series. Known as Dr. Demon from Tranzor Z, Doc H. is on seriously sinister antagonist.

4. KAGATO (Tenchi Muyo)
Another evil scientist-type, this schmuck was a student of the self-proclaimed greatest genius in the universe, Washu. However, he was clever enough to trap her for over five thousand years, and take control of her daughter to ravage the galaxy in his search for universal power. Kagato then brings his awesome battleship to Earth and torments Tenchi and the other girls. It's later revealed that he was originally a hermaphrodite, which is where his hatred of women came from, although he removed the female part of himself. In the Tenchi Universe TV series, Kagato was even more deceptive by posing as the lost hero Yosho, subsequently taking over the galaxy and turning the show's heroes into fugitives. This guy could give Lex Luthor lessons on being an evil mastermind!

3. JINNAI (El-Hazard)
This laughing jerkwad is the biggest oppurtunist ever! He first cons his way into being the class president, but when his position is threatened he tries to kill his opposition. The two of them end of going to the magic world of El-Hazard where Jinnai gains the power to communicate and influence the might race of insect creatures called the Bugrom. Along with the slinky Queen Diva, Jinnai establishes himself as the main conqueror of the Bugrom Empire. He comes a little close once or twice, even gaining control of the powerful Demon God, Ifurita. Jinnai's megalomania is very commendable as a villain, and while he'd not be the kind of guy you'd want to be in back of in homeroom, he's someone you'd want planning an assault on a neighboring kingdom.

2. MEGATRON (Transformers)
First of all, YES, Transformers is an anime! Megatron is the Grand Poobah of the Decepticons, with plans to not only conquer their homeworld of Cybertron, but the whole universe! He's a master strategist, and one of the most calculating villains ever. Aside from his cole demeanour, he also has a sense of honor, and despite his want to destroy his archenemy, Optimus Prime, he respects him as a worthy advisory. He also cares for the future of his fellow Decepticons(aside from maybe Starscream), so he isn't just in the galactic domination thing for himself. Most other versions of Megatron like from the Transformers movies have him being more vicious, where as in other shows like Beast Wars they have him as being a real menacing the very fabric of reality. Megs is as close to Darth Vader as you'll find in anime!

1. PRINCE LOTOR (Voltron)
Now we're talking "hyperspace"! Lotor is a pimp of epic magnitude. He's everything a young horny aspiring up-and-coming bad guy would want to become. First off, he commands a nearly endless armada of starships and giant monsters, and takes any chance he can to usurp his father's place on the throne. He's also a play-ah! If he's not trying to take down Voltron, Lotor surrounds himself with hot chicks, and is willing to commit intergalactic war just to tap some princess booty. By serving his inner-neanderthal, Lotor balances his passions for power and glory while laying waste to whole planets in his quest to go further than Darkseid ever dream of. Lotor is keeping his galactic-dominating pimp hand strong(even as a cyborg)!

JESI THE GENIE, *Part 5: Page 7


Story by Jer Alford. Art by Aimi Tokutake.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

MISC. MANGA, *Drop Dead Monstrous

Sweatdrop Studios is a British publisher of original manga-styled comics and graphic novels, some of which are anthologies set to a certain themes. One of these was one featuring all monster stories titled Drop Dead Monstrous. This has stories by several of their regular contributors like Selina Dean and Faye Yong, who on their own had their material printed in the U.K. version of Tokyo Pop's Rising Stars Of Manga. But their work isn't amateur, and it shines in this particular one.

The first story is about an apprentice mentim, or grim reaper who is doubting her role as an angel of death. Next is a short look in the tragic life of professional zombie killers. Then, a sad girl sells her soul to a demon to bring her brother back to life. Following that is an enchantingly cute tale of kappas(Japanese turtle monsters)as they try to save their village from a rampaging cucumber! Next is another story with monster hunters as they duel with vampires. After that is a very funny yarn about a sexy zombie stripper. Finally is a cryptic tale about a very cruel model as she shows she's a true monster without actually being one.

I'd very much recommend this as a great prep up for Halloween. There's some very good manga-styled horror and monster yarns in it, even though they don't seem to reflect too much on traditional Japanese horror. It's worth looking up if you want an eclectic collection of manga fun.

ANI-MOVIES, *Justice League: Crisis On Two Earths



Originally meant to be the lead-in from Justice League to Justice League UnlimitedCrisis On Two Earths was rewritten to be the first genuine movie of the JLA. Where as The New Frontier was more of a Silver Age story where the characters all got together in the end, this one has the League already formed in it. Although the word "crisis" in the title might give off illusions of epic crossovers featuring heroes from every timeline, the story only deals with the regular DC universe and one parallel to theirs. Also, this movie has no connection to any of the other previous DC Universe animated movies.

The Justice League as we now it has just recently set up business in this storyline, but unlike most other animated versions in recent years, Hal Jordan is the Green Lantern in this group. They are visited by a good Lex Luthor from an alternate reality where he is the surviving member of his world's superheroes. There, the JLA are the Crime Syndicate, with evil counterparts to Superman, Wonder Woman, Batman, and so on. Luthor convinces the League to come back with him to defeat the Syndicate. They manage to take down a few of the Syndicate's sub-groups, as well as Ultraman(evil Superman), which turns out to be ultimately pointless as they are all released from prision because of the hold that they have on this world. After chatting with President Slade(aka: Deathstroke or "Slade" from Teen Titans), Martian Manhunter forms yet another one of the weird pairings that the DC animated stories have with its characters by dating the Chelsea Clinton of this universe, who is really Ravager back home. Batman's evil twin of Owlman meanwhile plans to use Luthor's dimensional-hopping tech to create a doomsday device that will destroy every universe once he locates Earth-Prime, the Earth that all other realities stem from. Batman is able to stop him in time, and order is restored to the counter-world. On their return, the JLA opens up their doors to some new members.

This movie like the other DC Universe productions was produced by Bruce Timm, plus Super Friends alumni Alan Burnett. The original concept was written by Dwayne McDuffie from Static Shock and Ben 10. The animation is pretty standard of the previous DC DVDs, of which the character designs are similar too. There aren't any of the regular voice actors you're used to though in it, although Gina Torres as the sultry Superwoman(evil Wonder Woman)and James Woods as the sadistic Owlman absolutely steal the show. It's refreshing to see some of the DC heroes featured that they've never animated before, like Looker and Halo, even if its is their evil counterparts. The special edition DVD and Blu-Ray also has a bonus segment they'll be adding to future releases of Showcase where they do a short film of some of the lesser-exposed comics characters, this time around with an awesome grindhouse-like take on The Spectre. I'd recommend this one to all comics fans and superhero fanatics!

Friday, October 19, 2012

Anime For Halloween

Planning your own anime-themed Halloween party/rave/shindig/etc.? Then here's a quick list of anime OVAs & movies readily-available in America you might wanna screen for some screams:

VAMPIRE HUNTER D

The original anime movie about a dhampir(half-human/half-vampire)who is a vampire hunter about 10,000 years in the future, and rescues a sexy werewolf hunter from an evil vampire lord. Yoshitaka Amano of Final Fantasy did the eerie character designs for this , and it was produced by Toyoo Ashida who did this right after finishing Fist Of The North Star, another killer 80s post-apocalyptic anime. Some serious grindhouse-meets-Hammer Horror magic here!

VAMPIRE HUNTER D: BLOODLUST

This movie is seen as a sequal to the original, although you can view it on its own without having any knowledge of the prior. Based on the third of the VHD book series, this one is alot more geared toward fans of Castlevania and The Vampire Chronicles with dark images and some addictively grotesque action sequences. In it, D has to rescue another maiden who has been taken by a vampire lord, although this one is more of a gothic love story. But the main selling point in it is the team of vampire hunters modeled after the A-Team!

KAKURENBO

This short indy Japanese animated movie was fully computer animated about a group of children who put on fox maskes and run around an abandonned part of the city and play a game of hide-n'-seek. One of goes along to find his missing sister, but its soon revealed that the entire area is haunted by demons. The movie makes for a suspenseful slasher-type story as each of the kids get picked off one-by-one by the monsters, especially the mechanical menace that feeds off the children.

BLOOD: THE LAST VAMPIRE

Another bloodsucker movie, but also kinda short is the original Blood anime. This was created by Kenji Kamiyama who worked on Ghost In The Shell, and was one of the first anime productions to mix computer animation with 2D. A vampire slayer in mid-60s Japan takes on vampiric creatures called Chiropterans on an American air force base on Halloween. This is probably the best selection for a Halloween party in retrospect.

GHOST SWEEPER MIKAMI: THE MOVIE

Even though the TV series that its a continuation of is "supposed" to be coming out sometime soon to America, the movie was the first anime of it to be released in English. Mikami is a busty exorcist known as a Ghost Sweeper, who is always out to make a quick buck. Now, the Nosferatu has been resurrected, and Mikami has to team up with her business rivals in order to take him down. A sexy/funny romp for any ghostbusters fan.

MISC. MANGA, *Comic Party

After a successful adult and then non-adult dating sim game, Comic Party was adapted into a manga, and then later by two hit anime TV series. It was a little strange at the time to do a manga about the manga industry, or more accurately the world of dojinshi. Dojinshi is considered to be "fan comics" which are comics created by Japanese artists and tradtionally sold at comic book shows and conventions, the biggest of which is Comiket that is usually shown in this story as well as several other anime/manga titles. Unlike in America, Japanese publishers actually encourage independent artists to create books based on their works. Some of these artists actually get picked up by major labels after they start doing their own original material. While it is a fact that alot of dojinshi is hentai-themed, not all of it intended solely for lonely fanboys.

The story concerns high school student Kazuki, a boy with a talent for drawing that his cavalier fanboy friend Taishi cons him into going with him to Comiket and experiencing the feeling of being a dojinshi artist. This sparks Kazuki's ambition to becoming a dojinshi creator himself, much to the disappointment of his wouldbe girfriend Mizuki. Throughout the series, Kazuki meets other girls, who in the original dating-sim were the other love interests you would choose from. They consist of the country girl but gung-ho artist Yu, the egotistical and successful artist Eimi, the shy artist Aya, the klutzy printer Chisa, Minami who on the con staff, cosplayer Reiko, the idol singer Asahi, and the hero-obsessed comics creator Suburu. Suburu actually forms a special sentai team out of the cast to stop a disgruntled fan from ruining the convention. Despite all these potential girlfriends, Taishi sticks with Mizuki who has been his friend since childhood(as well as being the bustier one out of them all!). Taishi also has a big selloff with Eimi to take a position at a promising mainstream manga publisher, of which he eventually wins.

The manga to me told a slightly better story than the original anime series, as it carries Taishi's journey from casual fan to full-fledged manga artist, albeit a little swifter than expected over only five volumes. The original anime series was followed up by another TV show which was first going to be an OVA titled Comic Party Revolution, which in some respects is kind of a real sequel to the manga for more than one reason. One is that it was done by a completely different animation studio from the first series, and another reason is that there are characters and events introduced to Revolution that didn't appear in the original anime. Manga-ka Sekihiko Inui did a great job with this manga, and went on to create his own work like Murder Princess and Ratman. There was a totally different manga released in America through CPM Manga also titled Comic Party, but these was a three-volume anthology series featuring the regular characters as done by different dojinshi artists. Feel free to look both of them up.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

ANI-MOVIES, *Ninja Scroll

Wicked City, X, Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust, Highlander: Search For Vengeance, plus segments from Batman: Gotham Knight and The Animatrix. Thought to be originally based on the life of the famous swordsman Yagyu Jubei, the only thing that it has in common with that is the main character has the same first name and is also a great swordsman.

Set in feudal Japan, wandering ronin Jubei runs across Kagero the surviving member of a team of ninjas who were slaughtered by one of the 8 Devils of Kimon, a band of warriors with supernatural powers. Kagero and her group were investigating a village that was reported to have a plague in it, but she was accosted and molested by a large rock monster. Jubei manages to escape with her, even though the monster comes back after him, then he mysteriously dies during the fight. Its revealed that Kagero gives off a natural poison to anyone who makes love to her, which kills the monster. Jubei is then attacked by another one of the Devils, but dispatches her. Although, during the fight, the government spy Dakuan poisons him, and convinces Jubei to help him investige the case with the plagued village in exchange for the cure. The two of them join forces with Kagero to make their way to the village, but are continuously being attacked by the other Devils, which go from a blind swordsman, a hunchback with killer hornets coming out of his back, a ninja with the power to dive into shadows, and a naked woman with snakes coming out of every oraphus of her body. Kagero summons her lord to the village of where the Devils of Kimon have been actually collecting gold for an underworld clan lead by the "Shogun of the Dark". Unfortunately, the Devil's leader was masquerading as Kagero's lord the whole time, and kills her on the spot. Their leader is Gemma, who is one of the members of Jubei's old squad from five years ago that betrayed him, and Jubei thought he had beheaded him. Gemma though knew a reincarnation ninja technique, and since then planned to take over the shadow originization by becoming the "Shogun of the Dark" himself. Jubei and Gemma have and all out slugfest on the boat carrying the gold, which Jubei finally manages to do away with Gemma, Terminator 2-style.

Ninja Scroll has created a hell of a following, oddly more in America than in Japan. So much so, that it spurred an American-produced anime TV series sequal, as well as a comic book from Wildstorm. The only drawback to its fame was alot of American distributors tried slipping in completely unrelated titles like Ninja Resurrection or Jubei-chan as being sequals to it. There are plans to do an American live-action remake of it, but hopefully it'll be better than the Blood: The Last Vampire remake. As for the original movie itself, it remains to be one of the most dynamic action anime movies ever. The plot is about as standard as most samurai flicks, but the stylish animation and fight scenes totally move it along. The movie might be a product of his time which appealed to alot of the "extreme" nature of the 90s, but it has a very lasting nature for a classic getway drug for anyone wanting to get into anime. Throw out your obligatory copy of Scarface and make this a permanent addition to your movie library.

JESI THE GENIE, *Part 5: Page 6


Hey, eyes up here, pal!

Saturday, October 13, 2012

ANI-MOVIES, *Ultimate Avengers


With all the Avengers live-action movie finally here, I figured it was overdue for a review of the original Avengers flick, and I don't mean that crappy one based on the British TV show. Beating out DC Universe by over a year, Marvel Entertainment lauched a series of made-for-video movies based on their comics, which were produced by Lions Gate Films. This was of course before the huge Disney buyout, and what this means for future releases of their line is unknown. But their first one out the gate was a real winner. Taking elements from their alternate universe line of Ultimate, they take their original superhero group which was given an edgier look to it, and then slighty polished it for younger viewers.

It starts out at the end of WWII were Captain America is leading a strike force against the last vastages of known Nazis, where its revealed that the Germans were in cohoots with shapechanging aliens called Chitari, who are the Ultimate Universe equivilent of the Skrull(from Secret Invasion fame). They plan on launching a nuke on America, but Cap manages to climb on the missle and stop it. However, he ends up falling into the North Pole and remaining frozen for decades. Cut to modern day where "General" Nick Fury(the Samuel L. Jackson version)is leading SHIELD on an expedition to find Captain America's body so that they can use his DNA to synthesize the Super-Soldier Serum in their constant feud with the Chitari. Cap is however not dead, and decides to join SHIELD as part of their new Project Avenger team which Fury is assembling to protect the Earth from those obnoxious aliens. They recruit Giant Man, Wasp, and the mysterious Iron Man, along with SHIELD operative Black Widow(rroawr!), although Thor, the self-proclaimed Norse god, rejects them. Dr. Bruce Banner is the reproducing the Super-Soldier Serum, but mainly wants to do it to control the raging spirit that dwells within him which is the Hulk, a monster he turns into from when he first tested the serum on himself. After failing to stop the Chitari infiltration of a military base, the team disbands. But they all manage to come together to stop the Chitari from destroying the main SHIELD headquarters, and then have to then take down the Hulk who goes all "Russel Crow" on everyone. After finally turning Hulk back to normal, the rest of the heroes sign on to be a permanent team called The Avengers(even though in the comics they're called The Ultimates).

As far as a made-for-video feature goes, this was pretty bad-ass. It has acceptable animation, even though its not theatrical quality, and a good selection of voice actors. I'll admit that I was hoping they'd take some of the more mature aspects of the actual Ultimates comic, like Hulk going on a rampage because Betty Ross dates some actor douchebag, and Giant Man using ants to attack Wasp. But since this movie was meant to appeal to a wider audience, most of that material was left out. I'd say this is probably the best superhero team movie ever done(team, not superhero group like X-Men or Fantastic Four), mainly for the way the characters put aside their personal differences to come together and defeat their common foe in the end. This  was followed by the equally fine sequal, Ultimate Avengers 2, and supposedly the totally odious movie of The Invincible Iron Man was a prequal to it. BTW, there's no connection between this and the other Marvel animated movie, Next Avengers, which was more of a What If? story involving the classic Avengers' kids. I'd say that even if you're a moderate fan of superheroes or comics, that you should give this one a look, at least for some "amazing adventures, True Believers"!

Top 5 WORST Superhero Animated Movies

There has been alot of great superhero animatied films have hit the home video market in the last few years via DC Universe or Marvel Entertainment through Lions Gate Films. However, there have been a few of them that were bogus as hell! Not only in recent years, but as far back as the stalwart days in the 80s. So, here's a list of what I consider to be the five worst ones ever done. These are ones that were either released in theatres, or was created specifically for home video(VHS/DVD).
5.Turok: Son Of Stone This made-for-DVD feature was based on the semi-popular comic book series, that gained even more notice as the hit video game series about a Native-American during the old west who regularly hunts dinosaurs. So, a "weird west" story sounds like a good idea for a comic, but the way this crappy movie executed it was totally off target. Shotty animation by former Disney producer Tad Stone with some really bad action sequences that make the old Cadillacs & Dinosaurs TV series from the 90s look better by comparison. There's just some shameless wannabe gore that never goes the route it should, and poor voice acting. Only if you're a huge fan of the games should you even bother checking it out. You'd be better off watching Jurassic Park 2 backwards.
4.He-Man/She-Ra: The Secret Of The Sword Believe it or not, this was put out in theatres in the 80s. It was meant to be a pilot of the She-Ra: Princess Of Power TV series, but is actually just the first 5 episodes compiled into a single feature. If you thought the whole He-Man And The Masters Of The Universe show was gay as all outdoors, then this spinoff was sprouting flowers left and right. Aside from the recycled footage that Filmation is famous for, this is also just limp as hell as a movie. Granted, its the second movie ever made based on a toyline, but even that wasn't an excuse for this to be done as a "movie".
3.Superman: Braniac Attacks Meant to be a followup to Superman: The Animated Series, this made-for-video film actually sat on the shelf for years. It was only after Superman Returns came out that they even bothered releasing it. This features some of the voice actors from the original series like Tim Daly as Superman, but Powers Boothe taking over as Luthor and Lance Henrkisen as Braniac really didn't help, especially since it wouldn't be much trouble to get the original actors for it. The other problem is that this film doesn't match up with the TV series at all, as if its outside the TV series continuity. Plus there's this boring subplot with Jimmy Olsen's lovelife(like we're supposed to care!). So, as this was one of the original DC Universe projects, its totally skipable.
2.Next Avengers Where the less-informed might've thought this was a followup to the Ultimate Avengers movies, it was really inspired by the classic comic book Avengers, but done in a way that was supposed to cash in on the popularity of the Teen Titans animated series by making a younger version of their lead superhero group. In a post-apocalyptic world, most of the Avengers were killed off by the super-android Ultron, so Iron Man takes their children into hiding while Ultron takes over the entire world. This has the Avenger-teens learning how to use their powers in order to survive Ultron, and the robot Avenger clones that Iron Man was retarded enough to let Ultron get control of. The story premise is pretty bad for this which makes you wonder why heroes like Hulk and Thor would just sit back while that planet gets raped up the ass by a genocidal robot. Even the appearance of the rarely seen Vision doesn't help this turd. It might've worked better if it had the "Kidvengers" fighting crime in a future time instead of having them in the Old Man Logan version of the future.
1.The Invincible Iron Man Beating out the first live-action Iron Man movie by over a year, this was meant to act as a prequal to Ultimate Avengers which already had Iron Man as a hero in it. But, anything that would've been cool about an Iron Man movie was completely left out of it. First of all, the whole involvement of the Mandarin is the worst idea ever. If there was a reason for not having this character in a film, this movie is a shining example of it. The sad part is that its not even the "real" Mandarin. He's more like Dormammu from Dr. Strange. In fact, the entire Mandarin plot is almost completely ripped off in the Dr. Strange: Sorcerer Supreme movie. Plus, Tony Stark is just nothing like his comic counterpart. The addition of his father in this makes him a more responsible character, which is what you don't want out of Stark to begin with. That, and where after he and Rhodey come back from China, it turns out that Stark already had a vault full of armored suits was just lazy writing. Plus, can you possibly believe that SHIELD agents wouldn't bother looking over Stark's plane for any incriminating evidence after he's framed for selling illegal weapons, and not find a large robot suit hidden in giant trunk? The worst part is that you barely see the genuine Iron Man armor, which is only used in one scene in the whole movie. The rest of it is mostly all him in the garage kit armor, which is done in computer animation which doesn't work at all. It makes it look cheap and choppy, because it worked way better as regular 2D animation in Ultimate Avengers. For what this movie should have been, it is a big disappointment, and a fail of epic proportions.