Stephen reviews: Slayers: the Motion Picture (1995)

Slayers [スレイヤーズ, Sureiyâzu]

Starring Megumi Hayashibara, Maria Kawamura, Osamu Saka, Tessho Genda, Minami Takayama

Directed by Hiroshi Watanabe & Kazuo Yamazaki


As you might have guessed by the title, Slayers: the Motion Picture is by no means the first product in the Slayers franchise. But unlike other anime movies, this is not a summary of a longer series or a sequel relying on previous events. It has no influence on the rest of the series, nor does the rest of the series influence it in any meaningful way, and its place in the timeline is mostly indeterminate. (Various websites assure me it’s a prequel, but there is nothing in the film to indicate that.) Therefore, it makes as good an entry point as any to the series.

Rather than the usual gang of misfits the series centers around, main character and master wizard Lina Inverse is wandering around on her own and is soon dragged off by fellow sorceress Naga to visit the famous hot springs of Mipross Island. I’m glad they kept the cast small, as the movie avoids the pitfalls of huge casts that plague many other anime films. Instead it is a classic odd couple routine where the two conflicting personalities of Lina and Naga collide.

Continue reading Stephen reviews: Slayers: the Motion Picture (1995) →

Stephen reviews: Barefoot Gen 2 (1986)

Barefoot Gen 2 [はだしのゲン2, Hadashi no Gen 2] (1986)

Starring Issei Miyazaki, Masaki Kōda, Kei Nakamura, Takami Aoyama, Yoshie Shimamura

Directed by Toshio Hirata & Akio Sakai


A sequel can be a bit tricky to review. It will inevitably spoil some parts of the original, otherwise you just can’t say anything about it. So, as much as I usually try to avoid spoilers, I’ll just have to accept it here and tell you who managed to live through the first film. Barefoot Gen 2 takes place three years after the destruction of Hiroshima, and Gen now lives with his mother and adoptive brother Ryuta. Three years hasn’t been nearly enough time to repair the damage though, and the three of them live in a shanty town pulled together from the rubble, struggling to find any way they can to make a living. When selling scrap metal scrounged from the ruins isn’t enough, Gen isn’t above resorting to theft on occasion.

There is no grand moral dilemma over the criminal acts. They are living in impossible conditions, and they act out of desperation, doing whatever they must to survive. Another desperate moment is early in the movie when Gen and Ryuta climb the wreckage of a tall building, little more than a ruined framework now, in order to find bird nests and eat the eggs. It’s a strangely lighthearted scene as the boys laugh and joke and play atop a building that looks like it might collapse at any moment. But the joyful feel of the scene is a thin mask over the harsh lives they lead. They are hungry enough that they simply eat the eggs raw on the spot, and when the eggs are gone Ryuta laments, “I sometimes want to eat till I can’t anymore.” The film has that same mix of sadness and goofy antics that the first film had, but without the heavy atmosphere of imminent doom to make it feel out of place.

Continue reading Stephen reviews: Barefoot Gen 2 (1986) →

Stephen reviews: Barefoot Gen (1983)

Barefoot Gen [はだしのゲン, Hadashi no Gen]

Starring Issei Miyazaki, Masaki Kōda, Seiko Nakano, Takao Inoue, Yoshie Shimamura

Directed by Mori Masaki


It may be a cliché to say, “one death is a tragedy; a million deaths is a statistic,” but any good storyteller knows that to tell a huge tragedy, you need to focus on the small stuff. And there aren’t many tragedies larger than the dropping of the atomic bomb. Barefoot Gen tells the story of Hiroshima and the hundreds of thousands of people killed by the first atomic bomb, and as with any good tragedy, the movie focuses on the small stuff. It deals with the statistics and the massive scale of destruction, but mostly it is the tale of a young boy named Gen and his family during the final days of World War II.

We expect to have the opening scenes showing the innocent lives soon to be lost, but this film does more than that. It shows great details of daily life in WWII era Japan, and really gets into the lives of Gen’s family. The strict rationing in effect during the war has left little food for them, and Gen’s mother is pregnant. She eats what little food they have, and even though it is for the unborn child, her guilt as she watches the rest of her family go hungry is a palpable object throughout the beginning of the film. Barefoot Gen is billed as a story about the atom bomb, and while this is true it doesn’t quite do the film justice. It grabs ahold of your guts long before it gets to the bomb.

Continue reading Stephen reviews: Barefoot Gen (1983) →

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.

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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.

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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.

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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) →

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