Stephen reviews: Short Peace (2013)

shortpeace_1Short Peace [ショート・ピース] (2013)

Starring Fuka Haruna, Koichi Yamadera, Saori Hayami, Masakazu Morita, Mutsumi Tamura, Daisuke Namikawa, Keikou Sakai, Takehiro Murozono, Issei Futamata, Tomoyuki Dan, Shigeru Ushiyama, Akio Otuka, Ryutaro Okiayu

Directed by Katsuhiro Otomo, Koji Morimoto, Shuhei Morita, Hiroaki Ando, Hajime Katoki


Last time I reviewed one of the oldest anime anthology films, so this time I’m reviewing one of the newest. As with Robot Carnival, Short Peace was orchestrated by Katsuhiro Otomo. Unlike Robot Carnival, though, there really aren’t any connecting themes to Short Peace. The title suggests something regarding war and how easily it can begin, but that isn’t delved into at all. I feel like they wasted a good title here, as well as an interesting premise that might have made for a better film.

The anthology is also made completely in CG (the main character of the opening segment appears to be the only exception), which annoyed me, but I do have to admit that it is some of the best CG I have seen in an anime. But it isn’t the CG that bugged me as much as the stories themselves. They’re not bad really, but they lack the spark of joy that I got from Robot Carnival. I couldn’t connect to them in the same way, and the film felt a bit stale because of that.

Continue reading Stephen reviews: Short Peace (2013) →

Stephen reviews: Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex: 2nd GIG: Individual Eleven (2006)

individual11_1Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex: 2nd GIG: Individual Eleven [攻殻機動隊 S.A.C. 2nd GIG Individual Eleven] (2006)

Starring Arsuko Tanaka, Akio Ohtsuka, Koichi Yamadera, Ooki Sugiyama, Osamu Saka, Rikiya Koyama, Sakiko Tamagawa, Taimei Suzuki, Ken Nishida, Takashi Onozuka, Taro Yamaguchi, Toru Ohkawa, Yuko Sumimoto, Yutaka Nakano

Directed by Kenji Kamiyama


As the title might suggest, this is a sequel to the previous Stand Alone Complex. It’s also a compilation film just like The Laughing Man. Because it’s a part of the same TV series, it has the same solid animation, though a little heavy on the CG for my tastes, and the same great dramatic Yoko Kanno scores. But somehow Individual Eleven didn’t entertain me as much as The Laughing Man did. It was a bit less action packed and more explanation packed. And this is in a franchise that is already very explanation heavy in the first place.

It doesn’t help that it mimics the opening scene of the original Ghost in the Shell film not once, but twice over the course of the movie. Yeah, I know, it was a cool scene, but I don’t need to see it reenacted all the time. After that opening that I’ve basically seen before, it dives into a very long fictional history lesson to set the groundwork for the events of the film. I can’t say that this was unnecessary, but it really dragged down the first part of the film. Things thankfully pick up from there, but I couldn’t get into it as much as the previous film. It may have just been that opening breaking the mood, but I wasn’t so fond of some other factors either.

Continue reading Stephen reviews: Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex: 2nd GIG: Individual Eleven (2006) →

Stephen reviews: Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence (2004)

ghostintheshell2_1Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence [イノセンス GHOST IN THE SHELL (仮題)] (2004)

Starring Akio Ohtsuka, Kōichi Yamadera, Atsuko Tanaka, Tamio Ohki, Yutaka Nakano, Naoto Takenaka, Yoshiko Sakakibara

Directed by Mamoru Oshii


While the first Ghost in the Shell dealt primarily with mental identity, the “ghost” of the title, Innocence deals more with the physical robot body, the “shell” in this analogy. In that sense, it completes the theme nicely and is the perfect direction for the series to take. This time the police case is investigating a series of crazed robots that have killed their owners. This immediately made me think of Boomers from the Bubblegum Crisis/AD Police series, but like the first film, Innocence is so full of philosophical discussion on the definition of life and the distinction between man and machine that it stands apart from most anything else dealing with psycho robots.

It’s certainly an ambitious goal to make a sequel to such a complex and well-made film as Ghost in the Shell, and although I have a number of issues with it, it didn’t do a terrible job. Mostly what bugs me is what really just comes with the territory in a mid 2000s anime; it’s chock full of obnoxious and very obvious CG. When set next to the original, there is just no comparison between the natural grace of handcrafted animation and the jarring, stiff feel of CG. What makes this more annoying to me is that the moments that don’t rely on CG look fantastic, which only emphasizes how ugly the CG is. Much of the film does look amazing, and it just makes me bemoan the fact that the entire film wasn’t made so well.

Continue reading Stephen reviews: Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence (2004) →

Stephen reviews: Ghost in the Shell (1995)

ghostintheshell_1Ghost in the Shell [攻殻機動隊 Kōkaku Kidōtai] (1995)
AKA Armored Riot Police

Starring Atsuko Tanaka, Akio Ohtsuka, Iemasa Kayumi, Kōichi Yamadera, Yutaka Nakano, Tamio Ohki

Directed by Mamoru Oshii


It’s hard to imagine Ghost in the Shell as old. But here it is, nearly 20 years later, and the film still feels unrelentingly futuristic, far more than other science fiction films of the time like Total Recall, or even The Matrix which this film inspired. It probably has to do with Masamune Shirow, the series’s original creator, being so in touch with computer technology and engineering. Ghost in the Shell doesn’t just feel futuristic; it feels very real and absolutely believable. And that’s what makes it all the more frightening.

It isn’t a horror film by any means, but the concept of getting brainwashed by a computer hacker is scary as hell. We like to think of our souls, our personal identity, as something beyond the ability of others to touch, but not in this film. This is a future where your memories can be rewritten at any time, and “ghost hacking” is as common as computer viruses are today. For my money, that is far more frightening than any boogeyman jumping out of the shadows.

Continue reading Stephen reviews: Ghost in the Shell (1995) →

Stephen reviews: Galaxy Express 999: Eternal Fantasy (1998)

galaxyexpress999_eternalfantasy_1Galaxy Express 999: Eternal Fantasy [銀河鉄道999 エターナルファンタジー Ginga Tetsudo 999: Eternal Fantasy] (1998)

Starring Masako Ikeda, Masako Nozawa, Kōichi Yamadera, Kaneta Kimotsuki, Keiko Toda, Yoshiko Sakakibara, Noriko Hidaka, Yuko Minaguchi

Directed by Kōnosuke Uda


When I said in last week’s review of Adieu Galaxy Express 999 that it was an impromptu trilogy I had no idea just how true that was. Eternal Fantasy was not quite what I expected. Despite my assumptions going in, it was not in fact meant to conclude anything. Eternal Fantasy fully intended to have a sequel, and even advertised for it after the credits. But low and behold, no sequel was ever made. So the film that actually concludes the Galaxy Express trilogy was the only film that wasn’t supposed to be a conclusion. And just to compound the irony, Eternal Fantasy‘s tagline is, “The future will never betray you.”

This is a shame since the film has a lot of potential. I would have happily signed on for another sequel if one actually existed. The changes were a mix of good and bad, but on the whole, things were going pretty well. Its only huge failing is its cut-off ending.

Continue reading Stephen reviews: Galaxy Express 999: Eternal Fantasy (1998) →

Stephen reviews: Darkside Blues (1994)

Darkside Blues [ダークサイド・ブルース] (1994)

Starring Akio Ohtsuka, Hideyuki Hori, Kotono Mitsuishi, Kōichi Yamadera, Masako Katsuki, Maya Okamoto, Natsuki Sakan, Nozomu Sasaki, Shinichiro Miki, Yasunori Matsumoto

Directed by Yoriyasu Kogawa & Yoshimichi Furukawa


Did you think that just because October is over we were done with the Hideyuki Kikuchi reviews? Well, guess again. Darkside Blues is yet another adaptation of one of his novels, though it isn’t a horror movie by any stretch. Sadly it’s also far too confused and unfocused to make for a good movie. It has at least three main characters, arguably four, and not enough explanation, which makes the story feel like it’s going nowhere.

Set in a dystopian future, the plot pretends to revolve around a dark, mysterious stranger going by the name Darkside who magically appears in one of the few parts of the world not yet owned by the Persona corporation. It seems that Persona sealed the guy in an alternate dimension years ago, and now he’s busted free on an epic quest to use his strange magic powers to give psychiatric therapy to people. I wish I could say he had some awesome plan for vengeance or to free the world from Persona’s tyranny, but all he seems to do is hang out in a motel and “renew” people’s dreams.

Continue reading Stephen reviews: Darkside Blues (1994) →

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) →

Subscribe via Email!

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 1,593 other subscribers

Ongoing Series

Top Posts & Pages

Shaw Brothers Martial Arts Films
The Films of Jackie Chan
The Crimson Charm (1971)
Test Tube Teens from the Year 2000 (1994)
Black Magic (1975)
The Adventures of Emperor Chien Lung (1977)
Something Just Right
Killers on Wheels (1976)