Stephen reviews: Vampire Princess Miyu (1988/1989)

737187003622Vampire Princess Miyu [Kyuuketsuti Miyu 吸血姫 美夕, Vampire Miyu] (1988/1989)

Starring Mami Koyama, Naoko Watanabe, Mayumi Shou, Katsumi Toruiumi, Ryo Horikawa, Yuji Mitsuya, Masako Ikeda, Kiyonobu Suzuki, Tesshō Genda, Kaneto Shiozawa

Directed by Toshihiro Hirano


Another series rather than film, Vampire Princess Miyu is one of my old favorites from my high school years. It was refreshing coming back to this series and finding that it still holds up pretty well. This is not the late ’90s TV series, but the decade older direct-to-video mini-series. At only four episodes the entire series is no longer than a feature film, making it easy to watch in one sitting although each episode stands on its own fairly well. They are all interconnected and combine to tell a broader story, but each episode is also a single adventure in itself.

The franchise has a rather oddly translated title. “Princess” is nowhere in the Japanese title. Miyu herself is not, and never was, a princess of anything. One can only wonder what made the translators insert that word. I guess it just sounds better than the more basic Vampire Miyu (though I do wonder if the original title might be a reference to Anne Rice’s The Vampire Lestat). In any event, the erroneous title is the one by which the franchise is most commonly known in English (the original manga used the literal translation Vampire Miyu when it first came out in the US, but later releases apparently added in the “princess” bit).

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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.

Continue reading Stephen reviews: Silent Möbius (1991) →

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.

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Stephen reviews: Adieu Galaxy Express 999 (1981)

adieugalaxyexpress999_1Adieu Galaxy Express 999 [さよなら銀河鉄道999 -アンドロメダ終着駅- Sayonara Ginga Tetsudo 999: Andromeda Shuchakueki] (1981)
AKA Goodbye Galaxy Railway 999: Andromeda Terminal (more of a literal translation, really)

Starring Masako Ikeda, Masako Nozawa, Kaneta Kimotsuki, Makio Inoue, Reiko Tajima, Kei Tomiyama, Youko Asagami, Toru Emori, Ryoko Kinomiya, Hidekatsu Shibata

Directed by Rintaro


As the title implies, this is the conclusion of the Galaxy Express series. But wait, didn’t I tell you all in last week’s review that this was the second film in a trilogy? Well, yes, but it’s a rather impromptu trilogy since the third film, Galaxy Express 999: Eternal Fantasy, didn’t come out until the late ’90s, so Adieu was intended to be the conclusion. Actually, the original Galaxy Express 999 wasn’t intended to have a sequel either, so all three films in the trilogy were the end of the series. And none of them actually stayed that way. (Ok, ok, so Eternal Fantasy was followed by a TV series spin-off rather than a true sequel. So sue me.)

Of course, making a sequel to a film that doesn’t need one is always tricky business. Not only do you have to unravel the ending that had already been neatly tied up, but you have to then face the twin complaints that the sequel is either too much or not enough like the original. While I enjoyed Adieu quite a bit, hecklers will complain about it from both sides of the field. Probably simultaneously.

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Stephen reviews: Galaxy Express 999 (1979)

galaxyexpressGalaxy Express 999 [銀河鉄道999 Ginga Tetsudo 999] (1979)
AKA Bonjour Galaxy Express 999

Starring Masako Nozawa, Masako Ikeda, Hidekatsu Shibata, Kaneta Kimotsuki, Youko Asagami, Kei Tomiyama, Makio Inoue, Reiko Tajima

Directed by Rintaro


Say, did you know there was anime before 1980? It’s true. It’s also damn near impossible to find American releases of it. That’s why this is my first review from the ’70s (unless you count the Champion Joe compilation film). It’s also the first film of the Galaxy Express trilogy, which I’ll be tackling over the next few weeks.

One of the few things I know about ’70s anime is that the animation quality was generally crap. I’ve seen brief snippets of anime films from the ’50s and ’60s that could stand proud next to Ghibli films, but somewhere along the line it all went to hell. By the ’80s, animation quality had hit bottom. Sadly, Galaxy Express 999 met my expectations for the ’70s. That doesn’t mean this is a bad film. It just means that Galaxy Express is a product of its time.

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Stephen reviews: Toward the Terra (1980)

toward-the-terraToward the Terra [地球へ… Terra e…] (1980)
AKA Chikyū e…

Starring Junichi Inoue, Masaya Oki, Kumiko Akiyoshi,  Akira Kamiya, Chiyoko Kawashima, Eiko Masuyama, Kyōko Kishida, Mami Koyama, Masako Ikeda, Tōru Furuya, Yasuo Hisamatsu

Directed by Hideo Onchi


When I first ordered this film, I had no idea just how old it was. It’s rather unusual for such an old anime to get an American release. It was probably meant to coincide with the release of the much more recent TV adaptation. At any rate, this was a pleasant surprise for me. I am very fond of older animation, and it made me want to watch the film even more. In the end I’m glad I picked this one, because it was quite a good film.

As the title implies, this is a sci-fi epic about a quest to return to good old Earth. In the future, humans exiled themselves from their homeworld once it became uninhabitable from pollution. It sounds like an environmental awareness after school special, but this is just the basic setting, rather than a major theme. The real story is about a society completely regulated by computers that stifle human emotions.

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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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