Sunday, December 23, 2012

MISC. MANGA, *Slayers Special

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

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

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

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

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Happy Holidays


ANI-MOVIES, *The Princess And The Frog

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

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

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

JESI THE GENIE, *Part 7: Page 9


Story by Jer Alford. Art by Aimi Tokutake.

Friday, December 21, 2012

ANI-MOVIES, *Sky Crawlers

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

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

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

JESI THE GENIE, *Part 7: Page 8


Story by Jer Alford. Art by Aimi Tokutake.

ANI-MOVIES, Dirty Pair: Project Eden

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

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

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

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


ANI-MOVIES, *Millennium Actress

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

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

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

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

ANI-MOVIES, *Afro Samurai: Resurrection

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

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

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

JESI THE GENIE, *Part 7: Page 7

Story by Jer Alford. Art by Aimi Tokutake.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

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

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

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

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

ANI-MOVIES, *9

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

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

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

JESI THE GENIE, *Part 7: Page 6

Story by Jer Alford. Art by Aimi Tokutaki.

Anime for the Holidays


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

MY SANTA!

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

TOKYO GODFATHERS

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

MILLENNIUM ACTRESS

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

Friday, December 14, 2012

Gendo Finish


ANI-MOVIES, *Tokyo Godfathers

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

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

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

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Top 3 Underrated Christmas Cartoons


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

TWAS THE NIGHT BEFORE CHRISTMAS

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

A WISH FOR WINGS THAT WORK

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

THE MOST HORRIBLE CHRISTMAS EVER

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, December 10, 2012

ANI-MOVIES, *Tinkerbell

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

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

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

MISC. MANGA, *Clockwork Sky

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

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

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

Saturday, December 1, 2012

ANI-MOVIES, *The Thief And The Cobbler

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

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

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

JESI THE GENIE, *Part 7: Page 2


Story by Jer Alford. Art by Aimi Tokutake.