Stephen reviews: X (1996)

X (1996)
AKA X/1999, X: Their Destiny Was Foreordained 1999

Starring Tomokazu Seki, Ken Narita, Yūko Minaguchi, Atsuko Takahata, Junko Iwao, Tōru Furusawa, Masako Ikeda, Kazuhiko Inoue,Mami Koyama, Rica Matsumoto, Kotono Mitsuishi, Issei Miyazaki, Jōji Nakata, Yukana Nogami, Toshihiko Seki, Emi Shinohara, Hideyuki Tanaka, Kōichi Yamadera

Directed by Rintaro


No, the title X has nothing to do with the film’s rating. It is in fact rated R. There’s no sex anywhere, and the only nudity is in the incredibly creepy opening scene where the main character, Kamui, confronts his naked mother. Before Kamui can do much of anything, his mother rips open her own stomach with her bare hands and pulls out a massive sword, which she then stabs into Kamui’s stomach. And just to end the scene on a confusing note, because it wasn’t confusing enough apparently, Mommy dearest spontaneously explodes in a spray of blood and severed limbs. Things like this are why Japan has cornered the WTF market. It certainly grabs your attention, but even after watching the film I’m not sure whether that scene was a dream sequence, or literal event. It doesn’t matter much though, as there isn’t much difference between the two in this movie. People travel through dreams, and the film is filled with apocalyptic visions.

The movie is about the end of the world, and the two groups fighting over it: the Dragons of Heaven who want to preserve modern civilization, and the Dragons of Earth that want to return the world to its natural state. Each side has six members in addition to the two fortune-telling sisters that lead them, and that means there’s obviously going to be some limits on how well we get to know them. Many characters have a sort of “Hi! Bye!” feel to them, just getting enough time to show off their stuff before dying. This film is an adaptation of a comic book series, and the problem of condensing a longer story will always be present. Rintaro has learned a few things in the decade since he directed The Dagger of Kamui, though, and the pacing in X is smooth throughout the film, giving a balanced focus to as many characters as it could.

Continue reading Stephen reviews: X (1996) →

Stephen reviews: The Super Dimension Fortress Macross: Do You Remember Love? (1984)

The Super Dimension Fortress Macross: Do You Remember Love? [超時空要塞マクロス 愛・おぼえていますか, Chōjikū Yōsai Makurosu: Ai Oboete Imasu ka] (1984)

AKA Macross: Do You Remember Love?, Super Dimension Fortress Macross the Movie, Macross: Clash of the Bionoids, Super Spacefortress Macross

Starring Mari Iijima, Arihiro Hase, Mika Doi, Akira Kamiya, Osamu Ichikawa, Eiji Kanie, Ryūnosuke Ōbayashi

Directed by Shōji Kawamori & Noboru Ishiguro


Here it is: Macross. The holy grail of sci-fi anime. It may not have as much mainstream recognition as some others, but within the industry, Macross is the preeminent giant robot anime. In America, it was turned into the first part of the Robotech series, one of the more popular cartoon shows of the 80s. It even impacted the Transformers. The character Jetfire was created from a Macross toy, and while Michael Bay and Shia LaBeouf have been using the Transformers franchise as their own personal commode lately, that Macross inspired character is still around today.

There is no Robotech version of this film, which is an adaptation of the original Macross TV series, but because of the various copyright conundrums, it never got a proper American release. It did get an English dub under the title Macross: Clash of the Bionoids, but one version going by that title was edited into oblivion. (If someone makes a list of the most confusingly published movies, this one better be on it.) I didn’t have much trouble getting a DVD of the original Do You Remember Love, but it is an all region disc, so I think it’s an international release that somehow sidestepped the copyright problems. Sadly, that “perfect edition” is far from perfect. While it does have some good quality video, the subtitles are abysmally timed. The worst part is the karaoke subtitles, which cannot be turned off under any circumstances. Maybe someday we’ll get a good remastered Blu-ray edition in America, but don’t hold your breath.

Continue reading Stephen reviews: The Super Dimension Fortress Macross: Do You Remember Love? (1984) →

Stephen reviews: Ninja Scroll (1993)

Ninja Scroll [獣兵衛忍風帖, Jūbē Ninpūchō] (1993)

Starring Kōichi Yamadera, Emi Shinohara, Takeshi Aono, Daisuke Gôri, Toshihiko Seki, Shûichirô Moriyama

Directed by Yoshiaki Kawajiri


Despite the title, Ninja Scroll doesn’t have much in the way of scrolls. There’s only one, and while it is important for a minor plot point, it certainly isn’t title worthy. But if the film doesn’t deliver the kind of ancient literary action that you were hoping for, let me tell you, it certainly keeps its word about the ninjas. In fact, it has so many to spare that it kills off a dozen of them in the first ten minutes. The poor guys don’t even stand a chance, as their opponent is a gigantic ninja made of rock with an equally gigantic two-bladed sword that he hurls around like a boomerang. He’s one of the Eight Demons (or devils, depending on the translation) of Kimon who all have a different magic power. In fact the only major character in the movie that doesn’t have some kind of magic ability is Jubei, the main character, who has only his badass sword skills to keep him alive.

Jubei gets hired, or rather blackmailed, by an old ninja to fight against the demons. And of course, the old man has powers, too. He can stretch into strange shapes and change color like a chameleon. They also wind up working with Kagero, a female ninja with her own power, who helps in order to repay Jubei for saving her from being raped. The sexual content is pretty graphic, so anyone squeamish about the rape scene may be getting more than they bargained for.

Continue reading Stephen reviews: Ninja Scroll (1993) →

Stephen reviews: Blood: The Last Vampire (2000)

Starring Youki Kudoh, Saemi Nakamura, Joe Romersa

Directed by Hiroyuki Kitakubo


There isn’t much in the way of rules for what movies we review here at Silver Emulsion. Nevertheless, there are certain genres that get more attention than others. Anyone familiar with this site will be aware of the plethora of horror and martial arts films, and I would feel remiss if I didn’t add anything to these categories.

Quite some time ago I saw Blood: The Last Vampire. Back then, I felt it was average at best and wholly forgettable, at which point I promptly forgot everything about it. Years later, I watched Blood+, the TV series based upon the movie, and I thought about going back and watching the original again to see if it filled in any blanks or added anything new to the story. I never got around to doing it until I started talking to Will about this site, and that led to the aforementioned desire to give it a horror anime review. Suddenly, I had another reason to get off my duff and re-watch Blood. And now that I have, I’m not quite sure why I was so dismissive of it.

Continue reading Stephen reviews: Blood: The Last Vampire (2000) →

Guest Review: The Secret World of Arrietty (2010/2012)

Allow me to introduce my buddy, Stephen. He’s gonna chime in from time to time with an anime review, so give him a big welcome. First up, it’s the newest Studio Ghibli film to hit US shores!


The Borrower Arrietty [借りぐらしのアリエッティ, Kari Gurashi no Arietti] AKA Arrietty, Arrietty: Le Petit Monde des Chapardeurs
Original Release 2010 in Japan, US Theatrical Release 2012

Starring Bridget Mendler, David Henrie, Amy Poehler, Gracie Poletti, Moisés Arias, Will Arnett, Carol Burnett

Directed by Hiromasa Yonebayashi


Lately, Studio Ghibli has made quite a few adaptations of children’s fantasy stories.  This one is based upon The Borrowers by Mary Norton.  The book was written in 1952 and set in the English countryside, so the film’s setting of modern-day Japan is obviously a bit of a change.  To further muddy the waters, the character names were changed in the Disney release of the film to make them more familiar to Western audiences, or perhaps to match with the original book.  Since I have never read the source material, I can’t say how much the plot was altered for The Secret World of Arrietty, but anyone who read the book should go in expecting something a little different from the original.

The film starts off with a boy named Shawn, who has a heart condition, and he has been sent to an old house in the country to get some rest.  When he arrives, he catches sight of young Arrietty, a miniscule girl who is one of the Borrowers that live under the house.  Borrowers are only a few inches tall, and slink around the house at night, “borrowing” what they need from the humans.  They bear quite a few similarities to various creatures of English folklore, most notably Brownies.  Shawn has arrived on the eve of Arrietty’s first borrowing, and she is eager to prove herself, despite the new human who makes sneaking around the house riskier.

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The Dagger of Kamui (1985)

The Dagger of Kamui [カムイの剣, Kamui no Ken] (198)

Starring Hiroyuki Sanada, Mami Koyama, Tarô Ishida, Yuriko Yamamoto, Ichirô Nagai, Kaneto Shiozawa, Takeshi Aono, Kazuyuki Sogabe, Takashi Ebata

Directed by Rintaro

Expectations: Moderately high. The trailer was awesome.


Before I get into anything concrete, I should preface this review with a quick bit on my knowledge (or lack thereof) of anime. In the 90s I saw a few, but nothing truly captured my imagination. Then I saw Spirited Away and I realized just how good the genre could be. From that point forward I sought out more Miyazaki films and was equally impressed with each of them. Despite working solely within animated films, Miyazaki had all the trappings of a traditional director, and being a firm believer in the auteur theory, I naturally latched onto him. I made a deal with myself to pretty much only watch his films when it came to anime; he was a name I could trust. Then I watched Whisper of the Heart a few months back, and I realized the fallacy of my personal pact. Clearly there were other films out there in which Miyazaki was not the director that were done just as well. I silently decided to one day re-visit anime in its many forms and truly give it a good ole college try. Enter one of my co-workers, who’s much more of an anime dude than I am. He suggested me this film, and after an initial internal struggle with myself, I decided to watch it. And I’m glad I did.

The Dagger of Kamui tells a somewhat complex story of betrayal and death, but it’s all told from the point of view of our hero, Jiro. The film opens with an unseen assassin murdering his mother and his sister, and when Jiro walks in and finds them, the townspeople immediately accuse him of doing the deed. They always knew he’d do it too; he was found in the river as a baby and was not actually one of them. This event sets into motion the entire film, as Jiro gets taken in by the kind and mysterious Tenkai and taught the ways of the Shinobi via a kick-ass montage of Jiro running along ocean waves and jumping between tree branches.

Continue reading The Dagger of Kamui (1985) →

Mini-Review: Whisper of the Heart (1995)

Whisper of the Heart [耳をすませば] (1995)

Starring Yōko Honna, Issei Takahashi, Maiko Kayama, Yoshimi Nakajima, Shigeru Tsuyuguchi, Takashi Tachibana, Shigeru Muroi, Keiju Kobayashi, Yorie Yamashita, Minami Takayama, Mayumi Iizuka

Directed by Yoshifumi Kondō

Expectations: High. I love Studio Ghibli and even though this isn’t directed by Miyazaki, I have high hopes.


Shizuku is a young junior high school student, busy reading every fairy tale she can get her hands on. It’s much more fun than studying! She soon notices a certain name that keeps popping up on the library index cards of the books she checks out. Who is this boy who reads all the same books? He must be someone very special! Shizuku quickly develops a crush on him that only mystery could facilitate. Written by Hayao Miyazaki, Whisper of the Heart hits every note perfectly and cleverly. Set in the mid-90s when libraries around the globe were undergoing the shift to computerized record-keeping, Miyazaki and director Yoshifumi Kondō manage to tell an enchanting love story completely based around the slowly dying old ways of the library, in what may be the most heart-warming anti-technology tale of all-time.

Whisper of the Heart isn’t your standard Ghibli fare, instead taking a much more realistic angle than Miyazaki’s films. Every frame of the film is filled with the detailed minutia of everyday life, from the quiet movements of a cat to the way the hanging handholds gently sway with the movement of a train car. It is nothing short of breathtaking. The attention to detail present here is absolutely unparalleled. My Neighbor Totoro features a lot of similar strokes of everyday life, but Whisper of the Heart revels in them, as it does not have a fantasy world to jump into as the story progresses. Well, that’s not entirely true. There are moments when fantasy takes hold, but the fantasy here is told in our real world sense of the term, it exists solely within the daydreams of Shizuku’s mind. These moments punctuate the reality of Shizuku’s situation, while also providing the viewer with some fun sequences. How else were they going to work a trademark Miyazaki flying scene into such a realistic film?

Whisper of the Heart is full of genuine emotion, heart and quality morals for any growing person. It is a touching film that is suitable for all audiences, but never seems like it is specifically targeting children. It’s just one of those films that’s so good, you can’t help but be enamored with it. I had been neglecting this film because it was not directed by Miyazaki (and somehow I thought that would effect its quality), and I was completely wrong to do so. If you’re thinking similarly, do yourself a favor and check this one out. Whisper of the Heart is hands down one of Studio Ghibli’s finest films. It’s an absolute shame that Yoshifumi Kondō would never get a chance at making another film as he died only three years later of an aneurysm. Highly recommended.

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