Stephen reviews: Mononoke (2007)

mononoke_1Mononoke [モノノ怪] (2007)

Starring Takahiro Sakurai, Aiko Hibi, Daisuke Namikawa, Daisuke Sakaguchi, Eiji Takemoto, Fumiko Orikasa, Hikaru Midorikawa, Hiroshi Iwasaki, Houko Kuwashima, Kōzō Shioya, Masashi Hirose, Minoru Inaba, Rie Tanaka, Ryusei Nakao, Seiji Sasaki, Takeshi Aono, Tomokazu Seki, Toshiko Fujita, Wakana Yamazaki, Yasuhiro Takato, Yoko Soumi, Yukana

Directed by Kenji Nakamura

I know you’re not supposed to judge a book (or in this case a TV series) by its cover, but sometimes that’s all you really need. As soon as I laid eyes on the cover art for Mononoke, I knew it was going to be great. My gut refused to believe otherwise. And it’s decisions like this that have made me very trusting of my gut over the years, at least when it comes to anime. My one and only concern was that the cover was not what the actual animation would look like. Thankfully that bizarre, otherworldly art design is exactly what you get on the inside.

Those light shades and faded pastels are a very unusual choice of colors for a horror story. Usually you want some all-obscuring darkness to ratchet up the mystery, but for me that bright color palette was more mysterious than any darkness could ever be. It’s clear right from the start that you are in a completely different world when you watch Mononoke, and you don’t know what you’re going to find. All that was apparent just from the box; all that remained was seeing if the show could actually live up to my foolishly high expectations. And boy did it ever!

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Stephen reviews: Legend of Crystania (1995)

Legend of Crystania [はじまりの冒険者たち レジェンド・オブ・クリスタニア, Hajimari no Bōkenshatachi: Rejendo obu Kurisutania] (1995)
AKA First Adventurers: Legend of Crystania

Starring Hikaru Midorikawa, Mitsuki Yayoi, Kiyoshi Kobayashi, Sakiko Tamagawa, Chinami Nishimura, Kazuki Yao, Toshihiko Seki, Fumihiko Tachiki

Directed by Ryutaro Nakamura

This film supposedly ties into an anime series called Record of Lodoss War. I saw that series once upon a time, but I honestly don’t remember much about it. I even had trouble remembering its name just now. It developed a cult following for some reason, but I never really saw why. I enjoyed it at the time, but it never struck me as particularly great, or even unique. Legend of Crystania has left much the same impression on me, and like Lodoss War, I will probably forget most of it in a month or so.

It’s actually rather hard to come up with anything to say about Crystania, because there really isn’t anything good or bad about this film. It’s positively average. It’s a typical revenge story where the main character discovers that vengeance won’t make his life better, just like every other revenge story out there. It’s also a typical fantasy adventure across a magical landscape that really isn’t all that amazing because we’ve seen it all before. And it’s the typical coming of age tale of a young nobody getting sucked into a grand adventure and becoming a stronger and more reliable somebody.

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