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


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.


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!


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.

Shining Cadence!

Friday, November 9, 2012

ANI-MOVIES, *Ghost In The Shell: Solid State Society

As the Ghost In The Shell: Stand Alone Complex TV series achieved a level of popularity not seen in the franchise since the original GITS anime, a movie followup to the series was a no-brainer. Like some films that act as conclusions to an anime TV series like Fullmetal Alchemist, Ghost Sweeper Mikami, and Nadesico, this brings the entire original cast back together for one last ride.

About two years after the second season of the series(2nd Gig), Matoko has left Section 9 to go work on her own. Since then, Togusa has stopped bleaching his hair and become field commander, while Batou is off being picky about which cases he takes. A foreign colonel kills himself on Togusa's watch for fear of a master hacker called the Puppeteer. The colonel's father is an exiled aging dictator under Japanese asylum, who is soon found to be dead by a micromachine virus. Batou goes to arrest someone connected to the virus, but runs into Matoko. He keeps this a secret from the other Section 9 members because he thinks she might actually be the Puppeteer. The investivagation leads into something called the Solid State Society, which is a secret government orginization running under a project titled Noble Rot. where abandonned or orphened children are left to take care of eldery citizens with no one left to leave their inheritence to. The Solid State was actually brainwashing these children and grooming them to be a docile next generation, with the wealth and power coming from their foster parents. They're also responsible for kidnapping thousands of children from abused families. The true Puppeteer turns out to be an individual A.I. that emerged from the collected consciousness of all the puppet personas that Matoka herself used through prosthetic bodies she controlled over the last few years. The children are then sent back to their families, and Matoko rejoins Section 9.

Solid State Society was a fine continuation of Stand Alone Complex, it however was a little lacking in the kind of production seen in a theatrical release. The quality was too similar to the that of the TV show, and when you're taking an animated series and turning it into a movie, it has to be a better than the original format. Considering how realistic some of the shots in GITS: Innocence and the recent GITS 2.0 reproduction, SSS should've been more polished than it was. The story fits well together, but anyone who hasn't seen the original SAC series will be pretty lost on some of the nuiances of the plot(like what the hell happened to the Tachikomas!). Unless there's going to be anything more from the GITS anime world in the next few years, this was a fitting finale to Shirow's cyberpunk saga.

JESI THE GENIE, *Part 6: Page 7

Story by Jer Alford. Art by Isabel Marks.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

MISC. MANGA, *Hollow Fields

At around what was kind of the beginning of the steampunk movement in the geek zeitgeist, Hollow Fields was one of the original English language(or "OEL")manga put out by Seven Seas Entertainment. This all-ages comic was first shown online, then as separate a three-volume mini-series, and then as a single large graphic novel omnibus.

Nine-year old Lucy Snow is sent off to an all girls school, but ends up making her way to a mysterious estate in the middle of the dark scary forest. There, she is greeted by the strange clockwork maid Notch who mistakes her for a new student in the school of Hollow Fields. Lucy is a little intimidated at first, but after hearing the school offers free tuition and boarding, she signs the contract to stay there. It seems okay at first, but she gets put down by most of the other students by being the newbie. Plus, the entire staff is made up of equally weird clockwork creations that were originally completely human, like the creepy Miss Weaver who school's head and founder, as well as teacher of the robotics class. Lucy's first week keeps getting worse and worse as she finds out the school is meant for up-and-coming young mad scientists. Coupled with that is the fact that every week one student is sent to detention from which they're never heard from again. After being given an impending assignment from Miss Weaver to make a functioning robot, Lucy finds some solace in a talking puzzle box who used to be a teacher at the school named Dr. Bleak. He instructs her on building a nearly passable robot which just saves her from being sent to detention, afterwards she dedicates herself to finding out what is happening to the missing students and the mystery of Hollow Fields.

This is an impressive work for creator Madeline Rose, who later went on to do another steampunk-themed manga, Clockwork Sky. I'd highly recommend getting a hold of the full Omnibus Collection version. A must for all steampunk fans, or for young fantasy like Harry Potter.

ANI-MOVIES, *Planet Hulk

After about a year, Marvel comes back with yet another Hulk animated movie. However, this one is a full-length OVA instead of a double feature. Similar to the Ultimate Avengers films, this one is an adaptation of an existing Marvel Comics storyline.

Hulk wakes up with a bad hangover to discover he's on a spaceship bound for a distant planet. A secret group heroes(known in the comics as the Illuminati)banish him from Earth because he's too destructive. Hulk gets pissed and derails the ship to the savage planet of Sakaar. Once there, he is ambushed by a tribe of insects, only to get taken and enslaved by the local imperial soldiers. Hulk gets roped in with some other captives to take part as a gladiator, and fighting robots and monsters for the pleasure of the tyrannical Red King. Even though they are all controlled by special nano-device, Hulk manages to advance him and his friends to the last fight, who it turns out is against Beta Ray Bill, a horse-headed alien that was given the power of Thor by the Asgardians. Hulk busts Bill's controller, and Beta sets the rest of the gladiators free with a lightning blast. Hulk threatens the Red King if he comes after him, and then he seperates from his former teammates. Desperate to save face for her king, the royal bodyguard Caiera goes after him, and proves to be just as strong as Hulk. However, a plague of parasites called Spikes are sent to the city where Hulk's teammates are at. Caiera is shocked to find out that the were sent by the Red King himself, because they were the same Spikes that wiped out her family as a child. Hulk, Caiera, and the others then head back to the capital to brutally kick the Red King's ass. Hulk then becomes the leader of the newly freed Sakaar with Caiera as his queen.

Planet Hulk features probably the best animation in a Marvel animation movie to date. I'd say that the Marvel movies has better animation, although the DC Universe ones have better writing. Hulk totally goes full-mad in this one, beating the living crap out of anything that gets in his way. Some comics fans might be a little pissed that Beta Ray Bill replaced Silver Surfer(for licensing reasons)from the original story, but they should keep a sharp eye out for cameos by Gamora, Adam Warlock, and Grandmaster. This movie adds a deeper level to the Hulk character rarely seen outside the normal comics, and way better than anything Ang Lee put together! Whether this will lead into a World War Hulk movie though is yet to be seen.

JESI THE GENIE, *Part 6: Page 6

Monday, November 5, 2012

ANI-MOVIES, *Batman: Mystery Of The Batwoman

Even though it might be considered the weaker of the original Batman: The Animated Series movie trilogy, Mystery Of The Batwoman is very unique for several reasons. One is that it was the very first made-for-video animated movie based on a DC Comics, which set the standard for the DC Universe line. It also was supposed to be the final regular title in the B:TAS storyline.

Set a little while after the end of Season 4 of the series, a new female vigilante called Batwoman is making things hectic for the new troika of Penguin, Rupert Thorne, and gangster Carlton Duquesene. After the movie confirms that Batwoman is not either Catwoman or Batgirl(who wants to make out with Bruce, eww!), Batman narrows his search down to Duquesene's daughter, Kathy. Although he sees Batwoman attack Penquin's nightclub while dating Kathy as Bruce Wayne. Another suspect is Rocky Ballantine, a metullurgist working for Wayne Tech whose developed a new kind of shapechanging metal that Batwoman used against Penguin. However, Batman also believes the new female police detective Sonya Alcana(apparently Montaya left to become The Question)might be Batwoman too. He later on realizes that its really all three of them working together and taking turns as Batwoman to throw off suspicion. They're all trying to shut down Penguin's latest scheme as a laser gun arms dealer to foreign countries. Bane is brought in as Penguin's muscle against Batwoman, and takes charge of shipping the weapons out of Gotham. Kathy raids the boat that's delivering the lasers, but is caught by Bane, and revealed to her father and the others to be Batwoman. Batman and Robin(Tim Drake)arrive to stop them, and Batman and Bane apparently have one last fight while the burning ship sinks into the harbor, possibly with Bane still on it.

Mystery Of The Batwoman is a great animated film, at least for Bat-fans. This acts as a decent conclusion for the original animated series, as well as lead-in to Batman Beyond as Batwoman's costume is a possible present day template for the future Batsuit, including the same emblem. There's some decent new voice casting in this too, with Hector Elizondo taking over as Bane, David Ogden Stiers replacing Paul Williams as Penguin, Kyra Sedgwick as the voice of Batwoman, and oddly enough Kelly Ripa as Rocky. The animation in this isn't really up on the same level as either Mask Of The Phantasm or Sub Zero, but its still a worth a look. You can get this either on its own, or as a double-feature set with Batman Beyond: Return Of The Joker, plus the DVD comes with a bonus Catwoman short!

Saturday, November 3, 2012

JESI THE GENIE, *Part 6: Page 5

Story by Jer Alford. Art by Isabel Marks.

ANI-MOVIES, *Highlander: Search For Vengeance

For at least the third time, the Highlander franchise got picked up again, and unlike its last animated incarnation(that crappy TV series from USA Network), this was a hardcore original adaptation directed by Yoshiaki Kawakiri. Most U.S. otaku would know him as the creator of Ninja Scroll, Wicked City, Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust, and he also worked on Neo-Tokyo, Lensman, X, and The Animatrix. Highlander: The Search For Vengeance is an anime remake of the whole storyline, and taking it into the Road Warrior future.

This story deals with Colin MacCleod, a completely unrelated McCleod from either Connor or Duncan. He was an British warrior who was first killed when the Romans took over their country, lead by Marcus Octavius who is really an immortal. Colin rises from the grave a long time later as an immortal himself(which seems to contradict one of the fundamental laws of Highlander)and meets the ghost of an old Druid priest who lets him know all about his new mutant superpowers. Colin then spends the next few thousand years trying to hunt down Marcus and kill him. This path finally leads to the 22nd Century where the world has been decimated by some kind of plague, and New York City is one of the last remaining cities which is ruled by Marcus and his Robo-Nazi forces. Colin teams up with a local resistance movement, mainly because the luscious prostitute Dahlia is really the living reincarnation of his dead wife. Marcus and Colin clash once, and then again for a final fight, but not before Marcus can unleash his own virus to kill off all the humans in the city. Fortunately, when Colin finally beheads Marcus, the resulting Quickening disperses the virus saving everyone.

This movie tacks some familiar action/sci-fi movie tropes, but as an anime film it gets to take them to some serious extremes. From android troopers with spider-legs, to chainsaw-swords, to some of the most killer dueling ever in an anime movie. Kawajiri's direction help make this something that even people who've never seen any of the other Highlander titles would wanna check out. The main animation was marvelously handled by Madhouse, but was distributed in America through Imagi Studios who also did the Astro Boy movie. The movie is on DVD in the States by Manga Entertainment, but so far only in an edited version in English. There's supposed to be a director's cut coming out sometime with an added Japanese track coming out soon, so keep on the lookout for it.

MISC. MANGA, *Exploitation Now

One of the most infamous titles from the early days of webcomics was definately this, and totally not for the kiddies! Created by Michael Poe, who later went on to do the fantasy webcomic Errant Story, this Keenspot title was a stab at alot of anime and manga trends at the time, but also at the rising webcomic genre. It started out as a joke-a-day strip, but eventually went on to form rather lengthy story arcs featuring the secondary characters.

It starts out with the young former porn star Bimbo(that's her real name)and her roommate Ralph(who may or may not be a Moogle from Final Fantasy). Their apartment is destroyed after trying to banish Cthulu from an incident with a stopped up toilet. So they move into a new building run by a teenage girl named Jordan, who just happens to be a criminal mad scientist with a bionic arm and dreams of world conquest. After a few flashback sequences about Bimbo and Ralph's early days, Jordan gets visited by an assassin from the Russians named Jones who is later revealed be one of Bimbo's numerous sisters, although it never comes up in the series. Bimbo later has to take in her younger sister Bush, who soon befriends Jordan, although she seems attracted to Bush in a more than sisterly way. The storyline then takes a different turn when Jordan is wanted by the FBI as she used to be part of some military think tank for junior geniuses, so she and Bush go on the run. This leads them to a brief visit with Bush's mother, a trip to an anime con, a bus hijacking by a tentacle monster, and a daring rescue by a swordwielding Playboy bunny. Bimbo and Ralph eventually get left out of the plot entirely as Jordan and Bush are finally captured by the government, but Jordan manages to escape by having a particle beam satellite blast the sight from orbit. Jordan ends up reuniting with Jones, even though the comic ended promising a sequel.

I'd highly recommend this if you are a fan of webcomics like Megatokyo or Sinfest. It has been printed in its entirety by Keenspot in a single large graphic novel, and then again in two seperate smaller novels. Be sure to give this one a look.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Pony Kombat

ANI-MOVIES, *Alice In Wonderland

While Tim Burton's rather shameless breakdancing ripoff of The Looking Glass Wars and American McGee's Alice shook up the box office, you cannot deny the classic visual ecstacy of the 1951 Disney animated movie. I'm really suprised that Disney didn't bother giving the live-action sequal/reboot a different title, at least to seperate it from the original. Although the more recent film seemed like Disney was just rehashing their Return To Oz premise but with Lewis Carroll's work. But, it is still impossible not to enjoy their classic first shot at it.

Taking place in England(probably in the late-19th Century), young Alice is bored out her mind listening to her sister trying to teach her history. She then follows a slightly anthropomorphic White Rabbit down a hole, but instead of ending up in Bugs Bunny's place, she enters a "dimension of sight and sound". After having emotional problems with a chatty doorknob, she washes up on the shores of Wonderland. She's then thrust into a caucas race, forced into a dream sequence by pushy twins, wrecks the Rabbit's house, and gets pestered by pushy flowers, all while having some serious height issues. Fortunately, a poetic caterpillar gives her some good mushrooms(?), and Alice manages to stabilize her size. The enigmatic Cheshire Cat then leads her to the highlight of the movie, the Mad Tea Party(you can't not love the Doormouse freaking out!). After a little more wandering around amongst the bizarre forest animals, Alice does something that most Disney heroines do, and realizes that her own world was better after all, and decides to try and get home. The Cheshire Cat shows up again and leads her to the loudmouthed Queen of Hearts who has a serious decaptiation fetish. Instead of getting her head chopped off, Alice is given the weirdest trial outside of Judge Judy. She then proceeds into the craziest Benny Hill-styled chase in animated film history, and wakes up because the whole thing was just a dream(or was it?).

For the lucky 13th of Disney's full-length cartoon movies, this broke alot of molds for them. First off, it was actually a meltdown of more than one book, while being mostly from the Alice In Wonderland book, there are segments from Through The Looking Glass too, but they manage to bring it together in a coherent way, which is suprising considering the source material. The other great aspect of it was their use of allowing the visual elements and music tell most of the story. It was to date their most colorful and lively animated movie to be released, only succeeded by Sleeping Beauty. While it isn't out to ram some overly-Christian morals down your children's throats like most Disney films, it remains as fun family feature, and one of the best cartoons to get totally stoned to!

ANI-MOVIES, *Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within

Long before James Cameron started pimping his Avatar epic, Square Pictures pioneered the world's first full-length photorealistic CGI animated movie. This was based on the hit video game franchise of the same name, although the movie took a more sci-fi approach as apposed to the more high fantasy that most of the earlier games.

Taking place on a post-apocalyptic Earth(that's right, not Ivalice!)in the mid-21st Century, Aki Ross is a scientist who is trying to collect eight seperate spirits, which when combined will create an energy field that will rid the planet of an alien force. The invaders are creatures referred to as Phantoms, which are ghostlike monsters that literally suck the souls out of people. This happened after a meteor crashed on Earth decades earlier, and the Phantoms spread throughout the world and killed off most of the humans. The survivors live in specially shielded cities, who have built a giant oribiting cannon to blast the alien meteorite and save the planet. But Sid, the scientist who created the special Phantom-proof shields, realizes that this might cause the aliens' spirit to take over the Earth's spirit known as Gaia, which would destroy all life. Sid along with Aki are enlisted the help of the special military squad of Deep Eyes, the commander of which is Aki's old boyfriend, Gray. They try to find the remaining spirits, however the vengeful General Hein is plotting to destroy the Phantoms at any cost.

The Spirits Within was the precursor to several other computer animated films that attempted to have the characters(human or otherwise)appear as real as possible, such as Beowulf, Kaena: The Prophecy, Resident Evil: Degeneration, and Negadon. The animation was virtually years ahead of its time, which might have worked towards its disadvantage as some people were possibly just not ready for that kind of advancement in cinema. Granted, it might seem pretty common by today's standards, but when this came out in 2001 it was groundbreaking, and even busts the chops of some of the more recent digital animation.

Of course the biggest gripe most people had was that it had very little to do with any of the actual Final Fantasy games. Most fans of the series expected guys with gravity-defying hair riding on Chocobos and swinging colossally huge swords around. However, the movie offered a compelling sci-fi/action/drama which managed to incorporate most of the better attributes that the games had, mainly brilliant character development and a compelling plot. It truly is an exceptionally great film, and worth a second look for those who are willing to see past the fanboy hatred.