Stephen reviews: You’re Under Arrest: The Movie (1999)

youreunderarrest_1You’re Under Arrest: The Movie [逮捕しちゃうぞ Taiho Shichauzo – The Movie] (1999)

Starring Sakiko Tamagawa, Akiko Hiramatsu. Bin Shimada, Etsuko Kozakura, Rika Matsumoto, Issei Masamune, Tomokazu Seki, Ryoko Sakakibara, Takeshi Watanabe, Ikuya Sawaki, Masaki Aizawa, Masato Sako

Directed by Junji Nishimura


Back in the ’90s You’re Under Arrest was fairly popular, though not as popular as Kōsuke Fujishima’s other creation, Oh My Goddess. I never felt it was anything beyond average, but it was entertaining enough. It was a buddy cop series that mixed together action, adventure, and comedy. The two female leads, Miyuki and Natsumi, patrolled around Tokyo in some remarkably tiny vehicles (which actually do exist) with the typical humor derived from their conflicting personalities that you would expect.

The movie veers a little off course by focusing more on the entire police station rather than the main characters. This takes away from the whole buddy cop premise, and it kinda left me disappointed since that’s what I was going into the film expecting. Another missing hallmark of the series is the car chases. The villain of the film has hacked into the traffic lights and caused traffic jams all across Tokyo, which makes it pretty hard to have a fun and exciting car chase (although it was rather funny that they had to drag their patrol car around town by boat and helicopter). In fact the first half of the film has only one or two minor action scenes at all, so you have to wait quite a while before the movie finally starts to get entertaining. It takes a lot of inspiration from the Patlabor films, especially the second one, which has a very similar ending.

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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: Stand Alone Complex: The Laughing Man (2005)

SAC_laughing_manGhost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex: The Laughing Man [攻殻機動隊 STAND ALONE COMPLEX The Laughing Man] (2005)

Starring Atsuko Tanaka, Osamu Saka, Akio Ohtsuka, Kohichi Yamadera, Yutaka Nakano, Toru Okawa, Takashi Onozuka, Taro Yamaguchi, Sakiko Tamagawa

Directed by Kenji Kamiyama


The Laughing Man is a compilation film of the Stand Alone Complex TV series. As such, it has a TV budget and it lacks the slick animation of the two Mamoru Oshii Ghost in the Shell films. It does have some pretty solid production values for a TV series, though, and strangely enough the CG is actually better than in Ghost in the Shell 2. There’s a good deal of it, but it’s not nearly as intrusive and actually makes an attempt to blend in with the line art of the character designs. It was a bit annoying to have every vehicle rendered by computer, but I’m more forgiving with something that obviously needs to make do with a lower budget. And since it’s not contrasted with such great standard animation, it’s less disappointing to see here.

Compilations can spell doom for a film in other ways, though (just look at the Yotoden Movie for an example of how bad things can get), but The Laughing Man is one of the better compilations I’ve seen. Partly this is because of its length. The Laughing Man clocks in at more than two and a half hours, and that means it has enough time to put in all the necessary content to make the story work. It’s still a little rushed at times, but everything you need is here. Although I really wanted an explanation of those girls curled up in Major Kusanagi’s bed. Were they spare bodies? Does she collect life-size dolls? Or were they just passed out after a satisfying S&M session? In a world full of cyborgs and robots the possibilities are endless. In fact, I’m not sure I want to know. The truth will probably never live up to my inflated expectations.

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Stephen reviews: Eureka Seven: Good Night, Sleep Tight, Young Lovers (2009)

eurekaseven_1Eureka seveN: Good Night, Sleep Tight, Young Lovers
[交響詩篇エウレカセブン ポケットが虹でいっぱい Kōkyō Shihen Eureka Seven: Pocket ga Niji de Ippai] (2009)
AKA Eureka Seven: The Movie; Eureka Seven: Pocket Full of Rainbows; Psalms of Planets Eureka seveN: Good Night, Sleep Tight, Young Lovers

Starring Kaori Nazuka, Yuko Sanpei, Keiji Fujiwara, Ami Koshimizu, Mariko Neya, Mugihito, Sakiko Tamagawa, Shugenori Yamazaki

Directed by Tomoki Kyoda


Several years back, Eureka Seven was all over the place. Or at least I kept seeing it everywhere when I was looking for new anime. I figured it was just some random Evangelion rip-off, and left it at that. But then something odd happened recently. It got a sequel. That’s pretty uncommon for anime. Remakes? Yes. Yet another season of some stretched too thin action series like One Piece? Of course. But an actual sequel of a series that ended several years ago? You don’t bump into those all that often in the anime industry. So I decided to go back and check out the original and see if my apprehension was well founded or not.

I was somewhat right in my Eva rip-off assessment, but it actually reminded me more of Macross with its scattering swarms of projectiles chasing after flying enemies. Particularly Macross Plus, which it seemed very reminiscent of from a stylistic point of view, so it was no surprise to find Shoji Kawamori credited with the mechanical designs. And while it had plenty of Eva’s sinister secret council meetings and the requisite bandaged mystery girl, it also had the stripey sphere full of enemy monsters and a bizarre time displacement subplot that reminded me of Rah Xephon. Basically, Eureka Seven is a hodgepodge of every popular mecha anime they could squeeze together. If I wanted to be cynical I would call it just a massive rip-off of everything, but I think that, at least in this movie version, it added up to something more than the sum of its parts.

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Stephen reviews: Battle Royal High School (1987)

BRHSBattle Royal High School [真魔神伝 – バトルロイヤルハイスクール Shinmajinden Batoru Royaru Haisukûru] (1987)

Starring Kazuki Yao, Kazuhiko Inoue, Hideyuki Tanaka, Chieko Honda, Mari Yokoo, Sakiko Tamagawa

Directed by Ichiro Itano


Despite the similar title and high school setting, this is not to be confused with Battle Royale. They are two very different stories. Battle Royal High School starts off like a martial arts film, with a protagonist that beats the crap out of a karate class and aspires to conquer every dojo in the country. But it quickly transitions to a demonic invasion and accelerates into the realm of pure absurdity.

The plot is tricky to pin down. It’s convoluted and low on explanation, but I’ll try to sum it up. Ryoudo, martial arts champion of his school, gets possessed by a demon trapped on Earth. After that, a demon hunter tries to kill him. Then add in the sudden arrival — from space, I guess — of a space-time continuum inspector who’s searching for the source of a “hyper-psycho-kinetic-wave.” He’s also tricked out with an awesome suit of robot armor. Obviously. And apparently fairies are trying to take over the world by mutating people into hideous monsters. Somehow all of that gets twisted into a plot that actually makes a good deal of sense in the end, as long as you don’t question it.

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Stephen reviews: Summer Wars (2009)

Summer-Wars-PosterSummer Wars [サマーウォーズ Samā Wōzu] (2009)

Starring Ryunosuke Kamiki, Nanami Sakuraba, Mitsuki Tanimura, Sumiko Fuji, Ayumu Saito, Takahiro Yokokawa, Kiyomi Tanigawa, Mutsumi Sasaki, Mieko Nobusawa, Takuya Kirimoto, Sakiko Tamagawa

Directed by Mamoru Hosoda


After the surprisingly enjoyable Girl Who Leapt Through Time, I was expecting something better from Mamoru Hosoda. Summer Wars isn’t bad, in fact I had a great deal of fun with the first half of it. Unfortunately the second half tapers off, and I found myself less than enthused with its conclusion.

Much of the film involves the virtual world of Oz. It is an online community where people hang out, play games, conduct business, and in general do anything that you might do online (Except look at porn. This film is rated PG, you know.). I’m not quite sure if Oz is a website on the Internet, or if it simply is the Internet in the world of this film. In any case, it’s a far more idealized version of the Internet than what we have in the real world. All languages are automatically translated on the fly. The user experience seems to be far closer to virtual reality, even to the point of having avatar martial arts tournaments. And of course, security is absolutely unbreachable, which leads to some of the major plot points in the film.

The plot revolves around Kenji and his classmate Natsuki. Using the simplest trick in the book, that of a pretty girl looking sad and bemoaning her fate, Natsuki suckers Kenji into helping her out over summer break. It seems that poor Kenji is doomed to drag Natsuki’s luggage around on a weekend trip to visit her grandmother. Once they arrive, however, Kenji finds out that her real plan is for him to pretend to be her boyfriend and impress her family. This could have been the starting point for any number of tragically ill-conceived romantic comedies, but fortunately the film takes a hard left turn at the next plot point, nearly abandoning the clumsy relationship of the two fake lovebirds.

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