Stephen reviews: Space Travelers: The Animation (2000)

spacetravelers_1Space Travelers: the Animation [スペーストラベラーズ The Animation] (2000)

Starring Shinichiro Miki, Banjou Ginga, Hideki Ogihara, Kotono Mitsuishi, Shigeru Chiba, Takaco Kato, Yutaka Aoyama, Hisayoshi Izaki, Mahito Tsujimura

Directed by Takeshi Ui


Space Travelers was a live-action film that had nothing to do with space travel. It involved a group of loser bank robbers who tried to make themselves seem less like losers by pretending to be anime characters. Methinks there was a rather large flaw in that logic. In any case, the filmmakers decided to capitalize on the idea by also making the anime that the live-action characters were imitating, hence we got Space Travelers: The Animation.

The film is really a satire of the genre and so it is something of a deliberate B-movie. Not knowing any of this before diving in, I expected nothing more than a cheap bit of generic crap. I wasn’t disappointed either. It’s a pretty generic space adventure story that gathers a bunch of very shallow characters together for a bunch of vaguely coherent action scenes. That’s kind of selling the film short, though. It’s actually rather fun, and its sheer exuberance makes up for any of its shortcomings.

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Stephen reviews: Revolutionary Girl Utena: The Movie (1999)

utenaRevolutionary Girl Utena: The Movie [少女革命ウテナ アドゥレセンス黙示録 Shoujo Kakumei Utena: Adolescence Mokushiroku] (1999)
Literal translation: Revolutionary Girl Utena: Adolescence Apocalypse
AKA The Adolescence of Utena, La Fillette Révolutionnaire Utena

Starring Tomoko Kawakami, Yuriko Fuchizaki, Takehito Koyasu, Kotono Mitsuishi, Kumiko Nishihara, Maria Kawamura, Satomi Koorogi, Mitsuhiro Oikawa, Takeshi Kusao

Directed by Kunihiko Ikuhara


Welcome to my favorite anime film. It might not be the best, but it’s still my favorite. A film of absolute beauty, it’s also the weirdest thing I have ever seen. Now that’s a pretty big statement, but I’ve racked my brain, and I can’t think of anything weirder. I can hear you guys now, saying, come on Stephen, really? Weirder than Perfect Blue? Oh, yes. Weirder than Red Spectacles, even? I’m afraid so. But it can’t be weirder than those sex-changing dominatrixes from outer space in Sailor Moon can it? Now you’re getting close, but not close enough. (And it’s worth noting that Ikuhara also directed Sailor Moon.)

So what could make Revolutionary Girl Utena even weirder than that? Well, I’ll tell you what knocked it out of the park for me. An automated car wash springs out of the ground in the middle of a beautiful rose garden and promptly sucks one of the characters inside. Now if that sentence made any sense to you, go back and read it again because it shouldn’t have. The only thing weirder than that is the remaining half hour of the movie. The first time I saw it, I thought someone had spiked my Pepsi and I had hallucinated the whole thing. I literally rewound it and watched that last half hour again to make sure. And no, I hadn’t been drugged. It really was that weird, and the Cinderella Castle really did try to run the main characters off the road on a fourteen-lane highway.

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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.

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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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