Category Archives: Anime Review

Review: Harmony (Blu-Ray)

Harmony is an incredibly articulated sci-fi film based on a novel called Project Itoh. It’s set in the future in a time where a nuclear war has eradicated most of mankind along with plagues and diseases pushing humans to the brink of extinction. Enter three young teenage girlfriends: Tuan Kirie, Miach Mihie and Cian Reikado. The three young friends are tired of the way their very existence is carefully monitored by the “admedistration”, a facility which utilises nanotechnology to keep humans healthy and observe their vital body functions.

harmony1

The three decide the best way to voice their protests at all this is to commit suicide and therefore strike a pact to each take their own lives. In the process, Miach succeeds while the other two manage to walk away with their lives. Fast forward 15 years later and Tuan, who now works for the World Health Organisation, hears whispers of Project Harmony, an incentive that promises to bring ultimate Utopia to the world but it’s not all peace and tranquility that it promises.

harmony2

 

 

Straight off the bat, you can probably tell that this is a very dark movie and there are some truly graphic moments in the film as well. This is a very dramatic movie that is driven by the characters and not many action sequences so if you like text heavy films then this one is right up your alley.

harmony3

It features quite heavy with the 3CDCG which I’m normally not a fan of but I found that keeping in theme with the whole set in the future premise, it actually made sense. Harmony features some truly stunning artwork that has to be seen to be believed. The entire film is full of these visuals and everything from the building architecture to car design is what you’d expect and I’m not sure why but I found the film to have an air of Minority Report, the Tom Cruise picture. I think it’s because the future theme is so strong and sucks you in from the visuals and the amazing script.

It’s a very deep film that you’ll need to pause if you’re stepping away for a minute because there’s so much dialogue, there’s a very good chance you’ll miss out on something. It isn’t the type of anime I would normally watch but for a truly adult experience which will leave you talking with your friends and even having philosophy discussions with yourself, it’s a great ride and one that you probably won’t forget in a while.

Thank you to Madman for the review copy.

Final Score: 8/10

Review: Miss Hokusai (Blu-Ray)

Miss Hokusai is an absolutely beautiful slice of life drama from the 19th Century set during the Edo Period in what would come to be known as Tokyo. Production I.G have done a stellar job with this anime adaptation and crafted something quite beautiful with exquisite storytelling, music that captures the very essence of the time and artwork that is up with some of the absolute best.

misshokusai1

The film adaptation of the manga tells the story of young artist O-Ei who lives with her father Tetsuzo also known as the talented painter Hokusai and a pupil of her father’s, Zenjiro. O-Ei has a particularly strained relationship with Hokusai as he constantly berates her and tells her that her artwork is not up to scratch even though she’s highly talented at drawing more risqué art with women and men. Zenjiro is also particularly adept at drawing sensual women. O-Ei has a very tight relationship with her younger sister, O-Nao who was born blind. O-Ei often takes her to a busy thoroughfare bridge where she describes the environment to her blind sister in great detail while he sister loves taking in the smells and sounds of the people around her. It’s worth noting that in the manga that the film is based on, the younger sister doesn’t have a big as role as she does in the film. The role was expanded for the film and the writers have done an outstanding job with fleshing out the relationship. You can clearly tell that O-Ei loves and cares for her sister very deeply. They go for walks together, all the while the elder sister describing the world for her younger sibling. It’s very touching and endearing watching them together. O-Nao lives with her mother in a separate dwelling to Tetsuzo, O-Ei and Zenjiro.

Sarusuberi: Miss Hokusai

Tetsuzo also has a difficult relationship with O-Nao as he hates being around sick people because he fears them. This results in him hardly ever visiting his younger daughter. O-Nao loves receiving visits from her father and look forward to them even though half the time he visits her it’s usually because O-Ei has been prodding and hassling him to do so.

misshokusai3

There are quite a bit of spiritual themes with many various apparitions seen by different people in the film which is something that is normally caused by a piece of artwork in the house. Tetsuzo is often called upon to examine the art and modify it to stop these “demons” or other visions to stop occurring and bring peace to the household. The themes vary in origin from Buddhism to Japanese mythology but they’re woven very tightly into the story and provide some of the most delicate artwork in the film. The film basically weaves in and out of their lives over a few years through different seasons and finishes with a nice written epilogue on the screen which wraps everything up, suffice to say, being a slice of life drama, it doesn’t always end well for all.

misshokusai4

The film has completely stunning artwork and gorgeous animation and comparisons between this and Studio Ghibli are inevitable. However, after seeing it, I feel like it stands on its own and deserves it’s own merit. Ghibli is Ghibli and is perfect but this is something original and beautiful in its own right. Once again this film delivers some stunning 3DCGI that is used sparingly and definitely adheres to the less is more philosophy. The animation is sublime with the muted colour palette serving the time period well. You wouldn’t necessarily be expecting to see a swathe of brilliant colours but what you do get is a feast for the eyes nonetheless.

The music is beyond perfect while main instrumental song, Wind In Edo by Yo Tsuji still bouncing around in my head with its delicate string chords just absolutely beautiful to hear. And in fact the entire soundtrack itself is gorgeous, I couldn’t help myself and am listening to it as I write this review. Production I.G are normally known for more violent and futuristic fare such as cult classic Ghost In The Shell, Psycho-Pass, Guilty Crown and more but with Miss Hokusai, their experience in the anime industry shines through and gives them another classic. The only nitpick I really had with it is that it was too short at only 90 minutes long. I would have loved it for it to have gone for at least 120 minutes or even a bit more but then again, I love slice of life anime.

Thanks to Madman for review copy.

Final Score: 8.5/10

Review: Strike Witches The Movie (Blu-Ray)

Having heard of but never seen anything past from Strike Witches, I went into this movie not really sure what to expect. What I did get was just over 90 minutes of great story telling, likable characters and beautifully articulated animation.

strike witches movie

The story revolves an alternate version of 1945 and follows a Strike Witch, Yoshika Miyafuji, who has lost her powers during their final mission with their enemies known as the Neuroi. These mysterious beings, of various sizes with the ability to also transform, have the power to regenerate, block their transmissions and generally cause mayhem and death whenever they appear. Life has gone on for Miyafuji as she pursues her ambition to become a doctor and accepts a training position in Europe. Shizuka Hattori, one of the cadets under Miyafuji when she was in the Imperial Fuso Navy, is to be her chaperone to ensure she arrives to her new position safely.

strike witches movie3

Needless to say, things go awry in all sorts of ways when the Neuroi appear, which threaten to derail both Miyafuji and Hattori from carrying out their plans.

strike witches movie2

Ok, so one thing I had heard about this series is that it was fan service heavy and in that aspect, the movie continues the tradition but to be honest, after a while I found myself mot really seeing those moments as I was too engrossed in what was happening on screen. The film features a nice blend of traditional animation mixed with a balance of 3DCG, which is really used when animating the various warships that make an appearance, like the Yamoto. These ships are incredibly articulated and only serve to remind you that these were real battleships used in wartime. The animation during the battle scenes are stunning, there is so much going on with lasers flying every which way, bullets tracing through the sky, bullet casings falling to the ground and Strike Witches whizzing through the air and it all looks fantastic. The choreography used in the aerial dogfights is amazing and no battle plays out the same way, it’s really nice to see.

Yoshika Miyafuji is an instantly likable character with her headstrong, stubborn at times attitude to ignore orders and protocol and doing what she believes is the right thing to save lives and get the job done. She priorities saving lives above all else with little regard for anything else. This is something that drives Hattori crazy and she follows everything by the book and believes that orders are meant to be followed and rules aren’t meant to be broken. This causes some friction between them early in the story but they still manage to work together very well. The story is a little predictable but still highly enjoyable. I found myself hoping that when the odds seemed insurmountable and everything was against them, that something would end up saving them which in one way or another, it invariably did. I don’t think that’s particularly lazy storytelling, I believe that writers just want to ensure that fans got their happy ending.

strike witches movie4

The music narrates the story well with drama accentuating dramatic pieces during the fight scenes and a light change for the more tender and touching moments. Overall, it was what you would expect to hear but it served its purpose well and I’ve always believed that if you’re too aware of the music, then it’s too overpowering and it’s been overplayed or just too damn dramatic for its own good.

Overall I was pleasantly surprised and now I can see why the figures based on these characters are highly sought after and very expensive. It left me wanting to buy them as well! I can think of worse ways to spend an afternoon and this is definitely one way. If you’re fan then hopefully you’ll like this and if you’re new to the series as I was then I hope you find it as enjoyable as I did. One word though, if you don’t like fan service and you’re someone that always sees it everywhere then this is not the film for you otherwise it’s a great action film with very cute characters and nice story.

Thanks to Madman for review copy.

Final Score: 7/10

Review: Sword Art Online Extra Edition (Blu-Ray)

The latest Sword Art Online feature film is nearly upon us but until then, here’s a new release from Madman and Aniplex for anyone craving a walk through the early days of the SAO storyline. The events in this offering fall after season one but before season two and the GGO story arc and everything else that followed.

sao extra edition

It’s basically broken up into three different stories, two of which are being told at the same time. The first involves Kirito taking his sister, Suguha, to his school to meet up with Asuna, Rika (Lisbeth) and Keiko (Silica) to assist her with something that she’s yet to learn: swim. After arriving at the school, Kirito meets up with Seijiro Kikuoka from the Virtual Reality Section of the Department of General Affairs. Seijiro essentially wants to touch base with Kirito for a ore comprehensive wrap up after the events of SAO and ALO. This launches into the bulk of the story which involves a lot of flashback sequences with how Silica, Lisbeth, Asuna, Yui and Suguha (Leafa) all recounting how they met Kirito and the quests and adventures they had with him. From beating different end of floor bosses to the whole Beta/Cheater incident and more, it’s all covered. It also delves into the ALO storyline with the Asuna/Titania arc.

sao crew

While all this is going on, the others are still progressing with their efforts to teach Suguha how to swim. It has to be said that there’s quite a bit of fan service in these sequences, nothing over the top but expect lots of cleavage and bouncing bits.

The final part shows the whole crew relaxing in the virtual world of ALO before embarking on a quest underwater to try and show Yui her first real whale, something which she’s never seen before. But as these things go, they’re never as they appear and before too long things begin to go awry. This last part doesn’t run for too long but for fans of the SAO Universe, it’s a welcome extra little quest. Overall, if you’re a diehard fan of SAO then it goes without saying that you probably already have this in your collection. If you just have a passing interest in this series, it’s still worthwhile pick up just for the nice flashback sequence which may resolve any unanswered questions you may have. And the latest quest, while short, is still pretty cool.

Final Score: 6/10

Review: Your Name (Movie)

Your Name (Kimi no Na wa) is the latest offering from Makoto Shinkai who has also done such beautiful films as 5 Centimeters Per Second, The Garden Of Words and Children Who Chase Lost Voices. Your Name is a completely stunning film for so many reasons which needs to be seen by lovers of excellent and evocative storytelling.

yourname09

The story traces the lives of Mitsuha who lives in a countryside area outside of Tokyo and Taki, a young schoolboy who lives miles away in Tokyo.

yourname03

Mitsuha constantly bemoans about her boring life to her two closest friends from the lack of shops in the area to not being able to enjoy a cafe and generally having nothing to do.

yourname02

Taki for the most part has the life of an everyday teenager who lives with his father. In the background of these two lives is a celestial event in the form of a comet which hasn’t been seen in 1200 years and will be visible to people as it streaks across the sky. One day, the two teenagers wake up and come to work out that they have swapped bodies. This leads to hilarious and very interesting encounters with each other’s friends. They begin to leave notes for each other in a digital diary so they know what each has done during the body swap. These body swaps are completely random and can occur when they least expect it and only happens when they wake up for the day.

yourname04

The two become obsessed with finding each other but this is not without its ups and down which leads to some extremely dramatic moments in the film. The story is so well paced, it’s an absolute joy to watch with stunning bits of cinematography thrown in for good measure. Makoto san has crafted an amazing story which never bores or slows down and keeps the viewer on their toes for the duration of the film. It’s a highly evocative bit of storytelling and will have you reaching for tissues at various points. I won’t lie and admit that I got teary in no less than three parts of the film.

yourname05

The scripting is very tight and so well balanced, you’ll wish that more storytellers would follow suit. It’s a very complex story at times which might leave you a bit lost in places but it always keeps the viewer hooked and picks up the pieces when you may have temporarily lost your way. This is not an easy thing to do and some films can have trouble with this but Your Name is definitely the rule to the exception.

The artwork is some of the best ever committed to film bar none. It’s beautiful, stunning, sublime and absolutely level with the storytelling. The artwork is rich and full of some of the most detailed scenes I’ve ever seen in animated film. From the sun dappled ripples across a lake to the fine details on a can of coffee from a vending machine, it’s an absolute delight. I’ve said this in previous reviews but seeing real life locales faithfully drawn is always great to see. The train carriages are all recreated with all the right colours for the destinations as well as the inside of the carriage down to the keep clear sign on the doors which are spot on.

yourname06

It’s this level of detail that is a visual smorgasbord for your eyes. There’s so much going on that you don’t know where to look but despite this, even if you don’t look at what the focus is supposed to be, you don’t feel like you’ve missed anything. There are various settings in the film from the lush green countrysides, the stone grey urban sprawl with neon dipped store signs spread sporadically across the city down to the way little things like clothes blow and sway in the breeze. It’s all been done before of course but the art director and artists involved in this have added new elements which give it a new level of realism. Of particular note is the way the scenes with the comet in the sky have been animated. the way the camera rolls around and over the protagonists looking skywards unaware that each is doing the same miles away is amazingly beautiful.

yourname07

The music is totally amazing and is yet another one to the add to the collection. I really like it when some films break into a song as the story progresses. It helps to break some of the drama which can be overwhelming and also helps to bring a new level of comedy to the film. For a taste of the theme song, have a look at the trailer below which highlights the track from RADWIMPS which serves the film very well.

Scenes are beautifully filled in by chirps and singing of birds, the sound of burning wood, running water and just general nature sounds and urban backdrops. It’s so good to see a film with such a strong art style, storytelling and doesn’t fall over in an area which can be looked over at times. The sound direction never comes across as artificial and only helps to pace an already well told story.

yourname08

I’ll go on record and say that this is the best animated film I’ve seen so far and is easily the best from Makoto Shinkai. Your Name is an absolute masterclass in storytelling and it would be a massive disservice to yourself if you didn’t see it. Even if you think you won’t like it, it’s still worth watching just for the artwork which is worth the price of admission alone. It’s an excellent piece of storytelling and directing which doesn’t come along too often and will leave you wanting to view it again and again to get something new out of it each time. What you feel in your chest is real and unavoidable as you hope that everything tuns out in the best possible way as you connect with the characters and become completely invested with the story. Also, Madman need to be applauded for bringing this film out. It’s a feast for the eyes, ears, feelings and leaves you with an immense sense of hope, hope that everything can come together when everything seems against you. Brilliant.

Final score: 10/10

Review: Love Live! The School Idol Movie

Thanks to Madman for the review copy.

If you’ve seen Love Live! and Love Live! Sunshine and are pining for more school idol shenanigans, then this is the movie you’ve been waiting for.

lovelive_movie-fp

Love Live! The School Idol Movie continues after the events of season two Love Live! and sees μ’s taking part in a event to raise awareness for an even bigger scale Love Live! idol contest to be held at Akiba (Tokyo) Dome. Due to the stakes being higher by holding the contest in a much larger venue, the organisers send the nine girl idol group to New York where they’re holding a concert in Time Square. This results in some mini adventures along the way but none more evocative than the chance encounter Honoka has with a female Japanese singing busker who imparts some valuable advice to her which helps her along the way in deciding what to do with the impending demise of μ’s, now that the third year students are about to graduate.

Before too long, they’re back in Tokyo where they realise they’re now celebrities complete with fans who are clamouring for pictures and autographs. All this attention begins to have an effect on Honoka and the others as they begin to see the expectations placed on them now that they’re a fully fledged idol group very much in the public eye. μ’s decide to hold a concert in the lead up to the Love Live!, however they enlist the aid of unexpected allies which has to be seen to appreciate the scope of the performance.

love-live-movie

The movie has everything what you’d expect from such a highly polished anime and in that regard, it doesn’t disappoint. The songs are great and catchy and very idol-y (not a word, I know). The costumes during the performances are so cute, detailed and very colourful with that Kotori touch we’ve all come to love. The artwork has been elevated a touch from the series, I’m guessing because they had a bigger budget, in either case it shows with the backdrops which are very detailed and not so static like some that were in the regular series.

love-live-movie-2

And the script itself while not 100% strong like the series, is still very cute with a heartfelt message behind it. Once again the choreography is on point however I found some of the dance animations looked sharper and more intricate in the series. Maybe I was expecting too much as I absolutely loved the first two seasons. One thing I did find surprising maybe even disappointing, was the lack of songs in the movie from μ’s. I honestly was expecting a lot more considering that it was a full length movie and not a twenty minute episode but that’s a small observation.

All in all, it’s a very enjoyable watch and definitely a movie that warrants repeated viewings, if anything just to hear the songs and to watch them dance. The girls are as cute as ever and it’s great to see them together again.

Final score: 8/10

Review – Love Live! (Anime)

Love Live! reviewed on Anime Lab.

Welcome to the colourful world of school idols, if you haven’t been exposed to this before then you’re in for a ride and a half. A rollercoaster of music, best friends, emotions, laughter and many, many tears!

love-live-cast

Love Live! tells the story of three childhood friends, Honoka Kosaka, Kotori Minami and Umi Sonada. They all attend Otonokizaka High School as second year students and whose school existence becomes threatened when the school announces it’s closing due to dwindling enrolment numbers.

love-live-trio

Honoka noticing that school idols are highly popular comes up with the idea of forming a school idol group to attract students to the school to prevent the closure. It isn’t long before her two best friends, Kotori and Umi join up with her and form a trio known as μ’s (Muse). After having a less than a successful debut and vowing to not give up and continue, the trio soon finds themselves with other students wanting to join up, harbouring their own idol dreams.

a-rise

This results in the other members joining them over time and forming a nine member girl group. The other members are Eli Ayase, Rin Hoshizora, Maki Nishikino, Nozomi Tojo, Hanayo Koizumi and Nico Yazawa. The girls set their sights on entering the school idol project known as Love Live! A competition that pits schools from across Japan in a singing talent quest with a trio of girls called A-RISE riding a massive wave of popularity and success. μ’s realise that A-RISE are their biggest threat and competition despite  a few of the girls having massive fangirl feelings for them.

love-live-halloween

The anime revolves around these nine new best friends coming together despite their differences, working themselves out and sharing their experiences together. From early stumbling beginnings to a very polished unit, it’s a very entertaining ride and a joy to watch. And Eli Ayase has to be one of the best tsundere’s of recent times, this girl is absolutely adorable! From rehearsals to beach trips, family visits and various concerts in different locations, it’s great to see how μ’s learn from each other and work together. As with all great stories though, it’s not without some sadness which I won’t go into (no spoilers!) but the show ends nicely wrapping up all loose ends.

ayase_eli

It’s presented as a 26 episode series which translates to two seasons of 13 episodes each. Even better, there’s a new show continuing the school idol experience called Love Live! Sunshine which I’m about to start watching. All in all, I thoroughly enjoyed this anime, more than what I thought I would. It’s filled with great characters, catchy J-Pop tunes, stunning animation scenes and beautifully rendered 3D dance scenes with a gorgeous fluidity to each scene. The dance scenes themselves are wonderfully choreographed and you can clearly see that dance consultants were used for these scenes, they’re very polished and what you would expect to see in an idol show.

https://youtu.be/6E4bT58skMA

If you haven’t watched it yet, I can’t highly recommend it enough for all the above reasons and more. You’ll laugh, cry, sing and dance along…I guarantee it!

Final score: 10/10

Review: Coyote Ragtime Show DVD Box Set: Complete Collection

An anime about a group of interstellar pirates intent on stopping a photonic blowing up a planet called Graceland manages to be thought provoking while providing edge of your seat thrills! Spread out out over 12 episodes on 2 discs, CRS is a fantastic addition to the anime canon and one that completely deserves to be in your collection. Featuring a great cast comprising of a mysterious pirate called Mister, due to having so many aliases, a group of android gothic Lolitas called the 12 Sisters who answer to Madame Marciano and an intrepid Federal investigator who will stop at nothing in her rugged determination to catch Mister. Helping to round out Mister’s support team are Katana, Bishop, Swamp and Franca, the young daughter of the ex-pirate king, Bruce, murdered at the hands of Marciano, and who Mister is sworn to look after and protect as promised to Bruce on his deathbed. I won’t give away any spoilers and leave it up to you to watch but I can’t sing enough praises of this title. Every episode is filled with frantic action from gun battles, car chases, space battles all in a hectic race against time to stop Graceland from being obliterated. The story is rock solid and flows very nicely, you never feel that it’s all being rushed along despite the short number of episodes, it really is a credit to the writers and the animators who manage to block out the right pieces of the script resulting in a tight anime with a great and original cast, exciting action and an amazing colour palette. From the action packed opening credits to the explosive inevitable climax, Coyote Ragtime Show is a fun, fast and thoroughly enjoyable ride.
If I had to sum it up in one word, awesome. Given two words, freakin’ awesome, anime Otakus really need to run, don’t walk, to Otaku Fuel and pick up this great title today, you won’t be disappointed!

オタク燃料

Review: Appleseed Movie DVD (2004)

Appleseed Movie DVD supplied by Otaku Fuel

Shirow Masamune is a name that reverberates around the Otaku world. He singlehandedly kept the industry alive with a cult classic in the form of Ghost In the Shell. This was followed closely by another classic, Appleseed which was faithfully brought to the anime world by director, Shinji Aramaki. Appleseed was a huge smash in 2004 and even more so when it was released onto home DVD which brings me to this review. Just a brief background about the story first in case you haven’t had a chance to experience it yet.

Deunan Knute is a feisty and highly trained operative who fought in the last Global War and is one of the last human survivors who is teamed up with a technologically advanced cyborg called Briareos as part of the ESWAT organisation. The Appleseed of the title refers to highly sensitive and critical information Deunan must track down and recover before the new world, Olympus, is destroyed. The movie used a new technique instead of traditional cel animation. It combined animation, CGI and motion captured actors to bring incredible movement and a sense of realism to the characters as never seen before in an anime. This really has to be seen to be believed as the fluidity conveyed on the screen is really beautiful and a sight to behold. The transfer to DVD is absolutely faultless and is breathtaking to watch no matter how many times you may have watched it before.

The DVD itself is a two disc presentation with the first disc being the movie with your choice of English or Japanese dub, a commentary track from the director (amazing), soundtrack chapters, Appleseed trailers and the now obligatory trailers promoting other releases. The second disc is where more magic comes alive as it’s jam packed with special features ranging from a special called, “Birth of 3D Live Anime”, which is the making of Appleseed which is a must view, an archive of extensive design galleries, a music video from the Boom Boom Satellites, a commercial for the Appleseed soundtrack (which is another review), characters and mecha image gallery, staff profiles and profiles of the Appleseed characters and mecha info. All in all, a sublime collection of anime goodness worth viewing more than once and compliments the movie and overall presentation beautifully. And of course everything is presented in an impressive 16:9 ratio preserving the original format of the movie.

I think it’s obvious that I’m a fan and it may be a biased review but this is one title that if you don’t own, you must own or at the very least have watched it in Japanese with English subtitles as a true Otaku. This is a title that stands head and shoulders above all else along with some other gems that have deservedly earnt a place in your collection. I can’t praise Appleseed enough, amazing story told at a cracking pace, amazing technology utilised, great soundtrack and characters in a race against time that you will love all bundled in a double disc Special Edition which will look great in any collection.

Enough said, buy this now, it’s that simple 🙂