Stephen reviews: Dominion: Tank Police (1988)

Dominion: Tank Police [ドミニオン, Dominion] (1988)

Starring Hiromi Tsuru, Masaaki Ohkura, Ichirō Nagai, Jouji Yanami, Michie Tonizawa, Yuko Mita, Yūsaku Yara, Daisuke Gouri

Directed by Kōichi Masahimo & Takaaki Ishiyama


“Cyberpunk comedy” is not a genre that you see very often, yet that’s what I’ve got for you today. The original manga of Dominion was penned by Masamune Shirow, best known for Ghost in the Shell. If you’ve never read any of his manga, it may come as a surprise to find that Shirow has a thriving sense of humor, but most of his works are suffused with an absurdity that doesn’t often carry into their adaptations. Nevertheless, Dominion is probably his most comedic story, and this four-episode miniseries revels in that silliness as much as it revels in its degraded technological future.

The series plays a bizarre homage to the comedy routines of yesteryear, dredging up stock sound effects that seem more appropriate to vintage Hanna-Barbera cartoons or Three Stooges episodes than anime. Dominion is relentlessly goofy, and handles pretty much all of its violence with a lack of gravitas that seems at odds with its dystopian setting. The Tank Police themselves are equally laid back and unconcerned with following the rules. An early scene has them interrogating a suspect by playing croquet with assault rifles and hand grenades while the poor criminal stands precariously with a noose around his neck and a grenade stuffed in his mouth. The squad’s chaplain tells him it’s better to rat out his friends and join them in jail than to abandon them and go to heaven alone. Things go downhill from there.

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Stephen reviews: Silent Möbius: The Movie 2 (1992)

mp09Silent Möbius: The Movie 2 [サイレントメビウス2] (1992)

Starring Naoko Matsui, Maya Okamoto, Chieko Honda, Hiromi Tsuru, Toshiko Fujita, Gara Takashima

Directed by Yasunori Ide


Oh boy, here we go again. I really didn’t want to dive back into Silent Möbius, but I figured that I would need to tackle the sequel before my memories of the first film faded into complete obscurity. I figured correctly, because even more than most sequels, Silent Möbius 2 absolutely requires knowledge of the first film to make any sense. It also turns out that the sequel was a vast improvement (not that that’s saying much), which I did not expect at all, and it tackles exactly the biggest problem I had with the story of the first film, which was that they had skipped over why Katsumi joins the police after discovering her powers.

The sequel begins immediately after the events of the first film, and it just assumes that you saw all that and don’t need any kind of refresher. This works out rather weird since the first film had a frame setup and after the main story it switched from Katsumi hating the police to four years later when she is a member of the police force. This film starts after the events of the flashback but still well before Katsumi became an officer. In fact, I wonder why they even bothered making the two films separate. They are so short and so integral to each other that they really would have been better had they just been edited into a single film.

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Stephen reviews: Silent Möbius (1991)

silent-mobiusSilent Möbius: The Motion Picture [サイレント・メビウス] (1991)

Starring Naoko Matsui, Chieko Honda, Gara Takashima, Hiromi Tsuru, Masako Ikeda, Toshiko Fujita, Kouji Nakata

Directed by Michitaka Kikuchi & Kazuo Tominzawa


I went into this film with a bit of trepidation since I had found the TV series to be a rather boring drag. I was more tolerant of this version, perhaps because it came in at less than an hour long, but it’s still far from a masterpiece. At first I thought it was a condensed version of the series, but the 1991 release date surprised me. I didn’t think the series was that old — mainly because it isn’t. The TV series didn’t release until 1998, which means this film was fully meant to stand on its own.

Silent Möbius tells a pretty generic tale of an all-female police squad fighting mystical monsters in the future. There’ve been tons of similar anime over the years, and Silent Möbius is nothing out of the ordinary. It’s got a typically diverse cast of girls who each have their own gimmick going on, but you won’t see much of that for this film. It centers on one particular member of the team, Katsumi Liqueur, as she first learns of her magical heritage and comes to terms with her powers. It’s a pretty traditional call-to-adventure arc that could have worked a lot better than it did. But I suppose it could have been a lot worse as well.

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Stephen reviews: New Kimagure Orange Road: Summer’s Beginning (1996)

summersbeginning_1New Kimagure Orange Road: Summer’s Beginning [新きまぐれオレンジ☆ロード ~ そして、あの夏のはじまり Shin Kimagure Orange Road – Soshite, Ano Natsu no Hajimari] (1996)
AKA New Kimagure Orange Road: And Then, The Beginning of That Summer

Starring Tohru Furuya, Hiromi Tsuru, Eriko Hara, Kenichi Ogata

Directed by Kunihiko Yuyama


I’ve never been a huge fan of Kimagure. Its humor always struck me as bland and uninspired, but its first movie, I Want to Return to That Day, was such an odd and compelling title that I have wanted to delve into the series more. Summer’s Beginning tries to do what IWTRTTD did by losing the comedic tone and making it a more straight-up romance. But it doesn’t really have the nerve to go all the way with it, and it leaves in a lot of the sillier elements of the series. I’m not too fond of this approach as it only serves to dilute both aspects of the story without achieving the depth of emotion that IWTRTTD had. This may just be that I never really did care for the humor of Kimagure, but hey, at least it’s still better than an American sitcom.

Summer’s Beginning is not a sequel to IWTRTTD; it’s actually a sequel to the later series New Kimagure Orange Road, though I’m not exactly sure whether the second series is a sequel, a remake, or something else entirely. Summer’s Beginning starts off after IWTRTTD ends, and as far as my fading memories go, there are no contradictions to the story. There are even several flashbacks to events that happened in IWTRTTD, making it seem like Summer’s Beginning might well be a sequel to it. What Summer’s Beginning does differently, however, is keep all the psychic powers that IWTRTTD conveniently forgot about. In fact, those powers form the crux of the entire plot in Summer’s Beginning.

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Stephen reviews: Cybernetics Guardian (1989)

cyberneticsguardian_1Cybernetics Guardian [聖獣機サイガード Seijuki Cyguard (Holy Beast Cyguard)] (1989)

Starring Takeshi Kusao, Hiromi Tsuru, Hirotaka Suzukoi, Kiyoshi Kawakubo, Shozo Iizuka, Tessho Genda, Wakyo Sogabe, Yusaku Okura

Directed by Koichi Ohata


This is just a short little action romp. It’s not a very special anime, but then it isn’t trying to be one. It has a very B-movie feel to it. The creators basically threw a bunch of cool stuff into a pot and mixed it up hoping for something awesome. The story is pretty minimal, but still manages to be convoluted thanks to all the random ideas they used.

A robot test pilot named John gets his big trial run sabotaged by Adler, a jealous scientist who wants his own projects to succeed instead. Then some random demon worshipers show up and kidnap John. They do some bizarre black magic science experiment and turn John into the robot avatar of their evil god. Demon John goes on a rampage across town, which only convinces Adler to hate the guy even more. Meanwhile, John’s hot scientist girlfriend tries to fix everything, and the cops run around getting ripped apart by the monster.

The film operates solely on the premise that demons, giant robots, explosions, and hard rock are cool. The plot is nothing more than the mortar that holds those bricks together. It’s not really all that well put together either. Obviously the character development is pretty shallow, but the action scenes don’t have a lot of visceral impact to them either. The film gets by because the creators were right: giant demon robots blowing stuff up to a rock soundtrack is in fact pretty damn cool.

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Stephen reviews: Demon City Shinjuku (1988)

Demon City Shinjuku [魔界都市 (新宿) Makai Toshi (Shinjuku)] (1988)
AKA Hell City Shinjuku, Monster City

Starring Hideyuki Hori, Hiromi Tsuru, Kiyoshi Kobayashi, Kyouko Tonguu, Yuusaku Yara, Asami Mukaidono, Ichirō Nagai

Directed by Yoshiaki Kawajiri


The next anime based on Hideyuki Kikuchi novels is directed by Yoshiaki Kawajiri, the same guy that brought us Ninja Scroll. Considering how awesome that film was, I was eagerly looking forward to this one. It certainly has the animation quality to match that later work, which surprised me coming from an ’80s anime, but unfortunately it left me a bit disappointed in other aspects.

The movie starts out strong, with a kick-ass sword fight across the rooftops of Tokyo that ends with the destruction of Shinjuku. (For the confused at this point, Shinjuku is not actually a city. Rather, it is one of the special wards of Tokyo.) Authorities believe it’s a bizarre earthquake, but we know better. That crazy evil guy we just saw was actually summoning demons to take over the world, and now Shinjuku is under their control. Fast forward 10 years, and Shinjuku is now a haunted wasteland filled only with villains, the dregs of humanity, and the demons that hunt them.

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Stephen reviews: Kimagure Orange Road: I Want To Return To That Day (1988)

Kimagure Orange Road: I Want To Return To That Day [きまぐれオレンジ★ロード あの日にかえりたい, Kimagure Orenji Rodo: Ano Hi ni Kaeritai] AKA Kimagure Orange Road: the Movie, Johnny y sus amigos: Una difícil elección

Starring Tōru Furuya, Hiromi Tsuru, Eriko Hara

Directed by Tomomichi Mochizuki


This is one of the stranger anime I have seen. It is based upon a romantic comedy series that is heavy on the comedy and light on the romance. In typical anime slapstick mode, it had all sorts of bizarre physical jokes reminiscent of Saturday morning cartoons. A boy named Kyosuke and his entire family had super powers with fairly loose definitions (Think Jedi knights without lightsabers or heroics). They tried to hide their powers from the rest of society, and much of the show revolved around trying to keep it secret. He then becomes entwined in a goofy love triangle with Hikaru, a hyper, obnoxious girl who is obsessed with him, and Madoka, a quiet, temperamental girl who makes a habit of beating up thugs using nothing more than a guitar pick. From my first statement, you probably expect this film to take those concepts to new heights of Japanese weird. Not this time. It is almost pure romance with only a few halfhearted, and failed, attempts at humor. No super powers. No shrill obnoxious whining. No hurtling guitar picks of doom. Just the three main characters and their love triangle. This sudden shift in style and tone from its source material is why I call it strange, and I’m afraid that if there is any explanation, I am unaware of it.

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