Thursday, October 30, 2014

ANI-MOVIES, *Frankenweenie

Based on his live-action short movie from the 80s, Tim Burton spread this out into a full-length stop-motion black and white animated movie some two decades later. Whether this was something Burton himself wanted to do, or if he was urged by Disney to create as an the obligatory stop-motion animation film that seems to always come out sometime before Halloween is unknown. But the result was a better than average production.

A modern day young Victor Frankenstein(who apparently has no connection to the 19th Century scientist)is into making little amateur monster movies, which oddly enough doesn't really play out to anything else in the rest of the movie. After a dramatic new science teacher greatly inspires him and the rest of his school to go full throttle on the upcoming science fair, his classmate Edgar tries to team up with him on a project, but Victor isn't interested. However, his dog Sparky gets run over, so Victor decides to use science to bring him back with common household objects that he ties together to generate electricity captured by lightning, which is convenient since there's oddly a lightning storm in his town about every night. Victor has to keep Sparky's resurrection a secret, but Edgar finds out, and gets Victor to show him he did it. Edgar accidently lets some of the other eggheads in school know about it, and they try to create their own reanimated pets to win the science fair. The results are a bunch of nightmarish creations that run rampant on the small town. Victor and the others manage to stop the monster mash, but Sparky ends up dying again after battling a vampire cat in a windmill. The rest of the town uses their car batteries to bring Sparky back from doggy heaven, and accept him as true hero. You'd think after this, Sparky would join the B.P.R.D.

Frankenweenie on its own original worked spectacularly as a live-action short, but to turn this into a 90-minute animated really called for some slightly unnecessary additional material. Like, it's hard to imagine that there would be this many mad scientist wannabes living in a small Midwest town. Even Smallville wasn't this bad! Plus, all the stuff with Victor's a-hole of a neighbor/mayor didn't really add anything to it. However, the final execution makes for a good enough movie for the family to enjoy. The typical Burton character designs work well, at least mostly in black and white. The voice acting was good too, with Martin Landau at his best ad the overzealous science teacher. At least worth putting on for a good Halloween film fest for the kids.

Monday, October 27, 2014

MISC. MANGA, *Ursa Minors!

So, fuse Clerks with Scott Pilgrim, and add some robot bear suits, and you'll get some idea of what Ursa Minors! is like. Written by Neil Kleid and Paul Cole, and drawn by TMNT artist Fernando Pinto, this 4-issue mini-series from Slave Labor Graphics mixed in manga-styled art with American comic book geek sensibilities.

Tom, Richard, and Harry(get it?)are a trio of fanboys that work at a comic book/ice cream shop, but they also kick butt in robotic suits designed to look like bears, like if Tony Stark designed human-sized Teddy Ruxpin outfits. They have regular run-ins with Nazi-ninjas, jetpack ninjas, and other variety of ninjas. A trip to Japan has them celebrated as the "Mega Bears"(weirdly, they don't actually call them the "Ursa Minors" in any regular part of the series)where they take down a rampaging kaiju. Also, a hop over the pond to England makes way for an obligatory Harry Potter parody. Their final adventure has them dealing with corrupt future versions of themselves where they apparently get stuck in a time warp at the end, but the trade paperback has them in another adventure fighting mutant zombie kids at a fake movie premiere.

This was a fair look at the geek zeitgeist in the usual way of making a couple of hardcore fans into actual superheroes, but they manage to make it their own by having the Ursa Minors acting particularly dickish throughout the series. You probably want to get the collected graphic novel which has a of the bonus material, including webcomics, and a special 10-page wrap-up story as well.

Korean Batman has finger beams! Your argument is invalid!

Saturday, October 25, 2014

ANI-MOVIES, *Vampire Hunter D

"The first animated movie for adults" was the American tagline for this 80s classic. Based on the lengthy series of Japanese novels by Hideyuki Kikuchi(who also created Wicked City) this film borrowed the original book illustrations by Yoshitaka Amano(designer for Final Fantasy), but went its own direction as far as the look was concerned and made it more into a post-apocalyptic dark western.

Set about 10,000 years after humanity nuked themselves, what's left of civilization is now into strange mix of the old west and the Victorian era, but with laser guns and robot horses. During these dark times, vampires and other creatures of the night have come out of the woodwork to feed off the humans. Some of these monsters have mutated into having strange new powers, so the practice of vampire hunters is kind of a common practice. A pretty young werewolf hunter named Doris is stalked by the vampire lord, Count Lee(who bears a strong resemblance to Christopher Lee). Doris seeks help from a wandering vampire hunter named "D" who is also a dhampir. After several clashes with Lee's hot daughter Lamika and the space-warping mutant Rei, D confronts Lee in a terrifically climatic battle, but not before Lee figures out that D is in fact an offspring, and in typical final boss tradition, Lee's entire castle collapses when he gets axed.

Vampire Hunter D was directed by Toyoo Ashida, whose work on Fist Of The North Star shows up here in some of the gritty fight sequences. This has been recognized as both a movie and an OVA, but most American fans view it as an animated movie. It was first released in America on dubbed VHS through the Streamline Pictures, and years later re-released on DVD by Urban Vision. Although it's been on the out of print listing for a while now, so it's in serious need of a license rescue! Most otaku consider the sequal, Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust, to be the more superior anime, but you owe it to yourself as any kind of fan of animation to check out this 80s gem.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

OBSCURE O.V.A.S, *Bastard!!

This 6-episode OVA based on the lengthy manga series of the same name by Kazushi Hagiwara, mixed in D&D with heavy metal. The upshot for the anime was though is that it was directed by Thundercats animator Katsuhito Akiyama, so it had some decent action sequences in it.

Set waaay in the future after your average civilization-destroying armageddon, namely a god of destruction called Anthrasax, one of his followers called Dark Schneider was a powerful wizard that gets sealed away into a young innocent boy named Rushe that is raised by the leaders of the kingdom he was trying to sack as Dark Schneider. Fifteen years pass, and Anthrasax has a new running crew titled the Four Lords of Havoc, and set out to destroy various kingdoms that were created to seal in Anthrasax's resurrection. Dark Schneider is revived by the snippy priestess Yoko, and he sets out to take out the Four Lords one by one. First is the charismatic ninja master Gara, then Dark Schneider old lover Arshes Nei who is the most bootylicious half-elf in anime ever! Darsh(as his friends call him)finally has a tussle with necromancer Abigail who sends an energy-sucking giant cyclops to take him out, as well as Gara and Arshes who have switched allegiance to Darsh. The anime ends with Abigail being vanquished, but still leaving the other Lord of Havoc, Kall-Su, still working for Anthrasax and awaiting its revival.

Bastard!! was released in America through Geneon Entertainment on VHS and DVD, but hasn't had a license rescue since then. It's for reals worthy of adding to your anime hit list if your a fan of dynamic animation, and some pretty hilarious dialogue, especially in the English dub.

Friday, October 10, 2014

OBSCURE O.V.A.S, *Shin Getter Robo Vs. Neo Getter Robo

This 4-episode OVA series was an adaptation of the Venger Robo manga that was released in English through Viz Manga. The anime was one of several to use the term Shin among the Getter Robo titles like the New Getter Robo TV series, or the Getter Robo: Armageddon OVA, although technically they're not all in the same fictional universe. This particular OVA actually took the mecha from Getter Robo: Armageddom and Getter Robo Go into the same reality, but meant to be a follow up to the original Getter Robo and Getter Robo G(or Starvengers in America)shows from the 70s. Although, like most of the other Getter Robo anime movies that had the word "Vs." in the title, the two title characters don't actually fight in it.

The main enemy from the first Getter Robo anime series, the Dinosaur Empire, returns years after an all-out invasion on New York failed, which also claimed the original Getter Robo mecha and it's pilot Mushashi in its aftermath. The reptiliain humanoids plan their next invasion more carefully as the world forces muster to put together a new team to pilot their newest giant robot, Neo Getter Robo. Once they finally assemble all three pilots, the Neo Getter Team joins forces with the American mecha, Texas Mack, and its badass charismatic cowboy pilots. Eventually though, Neo Getter Robo gets trashed, and the team starts up the even more powerful Shin Getter Robo to foil the Dinosaur Empire's ultimate plan of using a giant flying sauce to dominate the world.

All in all, this was a pretty satisfying OVA. It didn't go on for too much longer like Getter Robo Armageddon did at some points, and carried the passing of the torch for a new generation of Getter pilots while still giving the old school team enough to do. The animation is decent, but mostly in the thrilling mecha fights that make Pacific Rim look like a puppet show. This is available through Discotek Media on subtitled DVD, although an added dub would've been nice.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

OBSCURE O.V.A.S, *K.O. Beast

This rather hilarious pun-filled OVA series was split into two series in its original release. First as a 3-episode OVA titled K.O. Century Beast Warriors and then by a 4-episode sequal with II added to the title. The American release had the entire series under the single title of K.O. Beast, although there was an earlier British dub of the first series by Anime UK(which was their only anime release!)magazine called Three Beastketeers which has gone down as being one of the worst dubs ever. Despite that though, the OVA as a whole managed to pull a bit of success on both sides of the pond.

Way in the future, the Earth has been broken into two halves due to a war between two super-computers, Uranus and Gaea. Uranus took all the humans and turned it's half into something resembling Cybertron, while Gaea kept it green having all the animals, who here are referred to only as beasts, that all eventually took on humanoid forms. Each type of beast formed their own clans, mainly the tiger, bird, and mermaid(even though they aren't all "maids"). Every one of the clans has their own guardian statue called a Jinn. The humans lead by Uranus are now trying to collect these Jinns, along with royal members of each clan. Wan the tiger, Bud the bird(more chicken-like), and Mei-Mer the mermaid are captured by Uranus' main agents, the short-tempered mage knight V-Darn and hitgirl V-Sion. The three beasts team up with turtleman Tuttle, and Yuni, the granddaughter of the human scientist Password pretending to work for Uranus on the Jinns. The Jinns are revealed to be robotic beasts that can unite into a giant mecha that the beasts can pilot. They escape and plan to look for Gaea itself, at first believing it to be a great treasure, with the forces of Uranus in hot pursuit.

K.O. Beast is a slightly acquired taste, although chocked full of hysterical comedy, brilliant sight-gags, and an amusingly original enough plot to it. Put together by some of the same minds that created Samurai Pizza Cats and Mon Collie Nights, their style of humor shines throughout the series. The entire series was released on 3 DVD volumes through Right Stuf, but is now currently out of print. Still, it is available on services like Netflix, so give it a look sometime when your in the mood for something truly off the wall!

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

ANI-MOVIES, *Armitage III: Dual-Matrix

With the original OVA series being a cyberpunk smash, and the theatrically-released compilation movie(Poly-Matrix)making some waves with its "star talent", it was inevitable that a sequal would get made. This time, Armitage III is made into a legitimate full-length movie in Dual-Matrix. Although this film had an almost totally different production crew behind it.

Taking place about four years where the original OVA/movie left off, Armitage and Ross Sylibus have new identities on Mars and managed to have a daughter, despite the fact that Armitage is an android. Armitage receives a transmission of illegally-created Thirds being slaughtered in a military installation on Earth. Armitage heads to the blue planet ton confront the assault teams military commander, but it turns out he was secretly under orders of the slimy robotics executive, Demetrio. Ross on the other hand stopped an attack on a power plant in his new identity as a security officer on Mars, and gets roped into being a speaker for the Martian government for a new robotics bill being passed on Earth. Armitage meanwhile is being helped by an underground robot repairman named Mouse, who first sells out some of Armitage's secrets to Demetrio, but then vows to help Armitage after getting beaten up by his personal Armitage clones. Demetrio kidnaps Armitage's daughter Yoko in order to force the secret of robot reproduction out of her, so she and Ross reunite to rescue her. This follows a rather lengthy chase that leads to the family finally coming back together, and defeating Demetrio, partially achieved with some help from Armitage's "brother" Pluto.

Dual-Matrix was a fitting follow-up to the OVA, although maybe not to Poly-Matrix. Actress Juliette Lewis steps in to do the voice of Armitage this time, and possibly the best one so far, plus Ahmed Best(aka: Jar Jar Binks)actually does a serviceable job as Mouse. The animation has that cell-shaded turn of the century style to it a lot of anime did at the time like the original Appleseed CGI movie, but still holds up pretty well. It's probably better off being bought in the special 2-disc collector's set they did of both movies instead of the single DVD release.