Stephen reviews: Macross Plus: Movie Edition (1995)

macrossplus_1Macross Plus: Movie Edition [マクロスプラス MOVIE EDITION] (1995)

Starring Takumi Yamazaki, Unsho Ishizuka, Rika Fukami, Mako Hyodo, Megumi Hayashibara, Tomohiro Nishimura, Kenji Utsumi, Shou Hayami

Directed by Shoji Kawamori & Shinichiro Watanabe

Shoji Kawamori is more prolific as a mechanical designer than as a director. It’s been his primary job in dozens of anime, and he even designed several of the early Transformers toys. Directing on a frequent basis has been a fairly recent development in his career, and it was 10 years between his directorial debut, Macross: Do You Remember Love?, and this, his second time as director (unless you count the short film Flashback 2012, which was mostly compiled clips from the original Macross). And it’s a good thing he decided to get back into the game, because this is a complete reversal of the bland rehash that was Macross II. We’re also lucky to have it at all. Due to a nightmare of legal red tape, the only other Macross series to see an official, unedited release in America are Macross II and an absurdly overpriced version of the original TV series.

Macross Plus wasn’t without production quandaries, though. Kawamori couldn’t secure funding for the film version he intended it to be, so he had to make it as a four-part miniseries, releasing one episode at a time. Once the series was completed, he hacked huge chunks out, added a few new scenes, redid the voice acting (or perhaps just used alternate takes), and then rearranged what was left into this movie edition. Throughout high school, the series was my favorite anime by far, so the film version always feels odd to me. The acting seems off since it has different inflection than what I’m used to, and the events feel oddly displaced. It has, however, been a long time since I last watched either version, and that has given me the distance necessary to look at the movie edition with less clouded eyes and appreciate it more as its own work.

Continue reading Stephen reviews: Macross Plus: Movie Edition (1995) →

Stephen reviews: Red Spectacles (1987)

Red Spectacles [紅い眼鏡, Akai Megane] (1987)

Starring Shigeru Chiba, Machiko Washino, Hideyuki Tanaka, Tessho Genda, Mako Hyodo, Yasuo Otsuka, Hideyo Amamoto

Directed by Mamoru Oshii

I ended my review of Stray Dog, the second film in the Kerberos Saga, with the hope that Red Spectacles would offer more of anything. I guess you really should be careful what you wish for, because I got a lot more all right. This first film in the series has plenty of activity to keep my attention, but note I say “activity,” not “action.” Mostly, what I got more of is that inexplicable campy humor that cropped up from time to time in Stray Dog. Not that Red Spectacles is billed as a comedy, or that it really tries to be, but you have to laugh when the main character is ambushed in the shower and takes out an entire squad of armed men with exaggerated wrestling moves while butt naked. This also marks the only time I have ever seen a slow pan from feet to head of a man taking a shower instead of a woman.

There is one great action scene at the beginning of the film, where three of those armored Kerberos members get assaulted by a veritable army of gang members. Sure, it has “B-movie” written all over it, but it’s a wonderfully arranged scene with tons of clever moments. And when they finish, they take stock of how much ammo they have left. The first has 30 rounds left, the second just five, and the last guy says, “I have one, that is, in my gut.” Then he keels over from his injury. Can you honestly say that isn’t fantastic?

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