Stephen reviews: Appleseed (1988)

appoavAppleseed [アップルシード] (1988)

Starring Masako Katsuki, Yoshisada Sakaguchi, Toshiko Sawada, Toshio Furukawa, Nobou Iwamoto, Mayumi Sho

Directed by Kazuyoshi Katayama


Masamune Shirow didn’t only make Ghost in the Shell, he also created the less well-known Appleseed. There have been a host of films made for this franchise as well, but most of them have been relatively recent. This first attempt is the only version from the twentieth century, and it handily proves just why Appleseed is less well-known than Ghost in the Shell.

Firstly, I should point out that 1988’s version of Appleseed is rather low-budget. The animation feels much more like an early ’80s anime rather than a late ’80s one. It’s low-detail and low-frame rate. This isn’t to bash the film — I don’t judge a production by how much money someone shoved at it — but with the sleek, shiny Ghost in the Shell as the face of Masamune Shirow’s work it’s easy to expect similar production values from Appleseed as well. That, however, would be a mistake.

The real problems of Appleseed have more to do with its clumsy plot than its clumsy animation. I remember being rather disappointed with the original manga as well, so it might be something to do with the source material, but it is undeniable that Appleseed‘s first film adaptation has some serious flaws in its execution.

Continue reading Stephen reviews: Appleseed (1988) →

Stephen reviews: Sin: The Movie (2000)

sin_1Starring Kouji Ishii, Kikuko Inoue, Kaori Yamagata, Akio Ohtsuka, Ayako Kawasumi, Hiroya Ishimura, Masako Katsuki

Directed by Yasunori Urata


Sin is one of those most dreaded of cinematic experiences, a video game adaptation. Oh, dear god! But wait! this one doesn’t completely suck. In fact it’s better than most video game movies I’ve seen. All right, that’s still pretty insulting, especially when you take into account that I generally avoid video game movies in the first place. Still, Sin manages to be entertaining at times, especially at the beginning when the generic plot hasn’t revealed itself yet.

It opens with a surprisingly compelling sequence that splices together a scene of the main character attending a funeral, with one featuring the final moments of the dead guy’s life. It actually worked really well at making me care about the situation and wonder about the reasons why the shit went down. Of course it helps that the dead guy was infected with some weird goo monster that took over his cells and turned him into a monstrous… um… thing. In fact, the monsters in this film are pretty good and creepy looking. They’re probably one of the film’s strongest points.

Continue reading Stephen reviews: Sin: The Movie (2000) →

Stephen reviews: Golgo 13: Queen Bee (1998)

golgo13queenbee_1Golgo 13: Queen Bee [ゴルゴ 13: Queen Bee] (1998)

Starring Akio Ohtsuka, Masako Katsuki, Kinryuu Arimoto, Ryusei Nakao, Mugihito

Directed by Osamu Dezaki


I’m trying to think of what I can say that I didn’t already say in my review of the first Golgo 13 anime (which is not the first Golgo film; there were also two live-action films from the ’70s). The two are very similar. This is all the more impressive for the 15-year gap between the two. I could point out a certain science fiction trilogy that had a similar time gap between it and its sequel trilogy, and that one didn’t turn out so good at all, even though it too kept the original director on board. But Osamu Dezaki brings back the stoic assassin as if not a day has gone by.

As such, you’ll probably enjoy, or hate, Queen Bee as much as you did the original. It’s still filled with sex and violence. Golgo is still the silent badass that always gets the job done, and gets a few ladies done along the way. If anything, it feels even more like an ’80s film than The Professional since the second half of Queen Bee sends Golgo to duke it out with a drug cartel in a South American jungle.

Continue reading Stephen reviews: Golgo 13: Queen Bee (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) →

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