Stephen reviews: Appleseed (2004)

20052694156.7577495Appleseed [アップルシード] (2004)

Starring Ai Kobayashi, Jurouta Kosugi, Mami Koyama, Yuki Matsuoka, Miho Yamada, Takehito Koyasu, Toshiyuki Morikawa, Yuzuru Fujimoto

Directed by Shinji Aramaki


It took 15 years for someone to make another Appleseed film, and this one is pretty much the exact opposite of the first. They both center around Deunan and Briareos, members of Olympus’s S.W.A.T. team in the wake of World War III, facing off against terrorists and traitorous elements of their utopian society. But where the original film focused on tactical and strategic combat without any real attempt at characterization or explanation, the newer adaptation of the tale is chock full of explanation while dumbing down the action scenes to just look cool rather than have any thought behind them.

The other big difference is the animation. The original film was low-budget and looked rather dated even for its time. This version, however, came after the colossal success of Ghost in the Shell, and producers were a lot more willing to risk cash on Masamune Shirow’s other properties. So the new version has sleek CG animation, which astonishes by actually not looking like total shit. Just partial shit. Pixar this ain’t, but I have seen a good deal worse. In fact, most anime CG from the 2000s does look like total shit — anime has always lagged behind its western counterparts in terms of digital functionality — but it’s clear that Appleseed had a lot of loving care put into its production design. That doesn’t mean I like it. I still hate CG productions like this, but when you knowingly jump head first into a full CG film, there’s not much reason to rant about it being CG. So I’ll restrain myself and focus on the film’s other features instead.

Continue reading Stephen reviews: Appleseed (2004) →

Stephen reviews: Hermes: Winds of Love (1997)

hermes_1Hermes: Winds of Love [Hermes – Ai Wa Kaze No Gotoku ヘルメス 愛は風の如く] (1997)

Starring Takehito Koyasu, Miki Ito, Kenji Utsumi, Chie Koujiro, Satomi Koorogi, Osamu Hosoi, Kikuko Inoue

Directed by Tetsuo Imazawa


A very loose interpretation of Greek mythology, the title character of Hermes: Winds of Love is here imagined as the king of all ancient Greece. He’s not a god in this film, except for sometimes when he is. The same can be said for his wife Aphrodite. And yet there are actual gods roaming around as well, such as the unnamed goddess of love and the father of all the gods, who is not Zeus but someone named Ophelius (I’m sure that’s not the way it was spelled in the subtitles, but I no longer have the DVD available to check on it).

This lead to a rather bizarre film that was hard to interpret. It’s obviously neither an attempt at historical accuracy, nor at mythological accuracy. I wasn’t sure if the creators were just playing with mythology that they didn’t know much about, or if they were deliberately altering things to work for their story. After a little digging, though, it turns out that the film was produced by a group called Happy Science, which appears to be Japan’s equivalent of Scientology. Suddenly it started making sense that the film made no sense. It might also explain the random spaceship orbiting Earth that appears for about five seconds and is never seen or heard of again.

Continue reading Stephen reviews: Hermes: Winds of Love (1997) →

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.

Continue reading Stephen reviews: Revolutionary Girl Utena: The Movie (1999) →

Stephen reviews: Spriggan (1998)

Spriggan [スプリガン, Supurigan] (1998)

Starring Shotaro Morikubo, Ryuji Aigase, Takehito Koyasu, Katsumi Suzuki, Kenji Taro

Directed by Hirotsugu Kawasaki


Watching this will always be an odd experience for me. Many years ago, my brother gave me the soundtrack to this film. It’s a good soundtrack, haunting and fierce, and I have listened to it quite often ever since. But the thing is, I hadn’t seen the movie before, so when I did finally watch it, I was very familiar with its music already. That may be why Spriggan‘s music feels so prominent to me. It jumps out and takes over the mood of the film far more so than most movies. You may have less affection for the music, but for me, it is one of the most integral parts of the film, lending it an intensity it never could have managed otherwise.

Spriggan is Kawasaki’s first time directing a feature film, and given how little I enjoyed his most recent film, Legend of the Millennium Dragon, you wouldn’t expect me to give this one very high marks. However, Spriggan is quite an enjoyable action movie, and there are tons of things it does better than Millennium Dragon. Perhaps it was Katsuhiro Otomo’s oversight of the project, but I think the biggest reason for this film’s quality is that it was made in 1998. CG effects just weren’t widely available then, and all the frivolous camera spinning Kawasaki adores so much was simply impossible at the time. It turns out that if you take away his toys, Kawasaki can get down to the business of making a movie, and do it fairly well.

Continue reading Stephen reviews: Spriggan (1998) →

Subscribe via Email!

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 1,593 other subscribers

Ongoing Series

Top Posts & Pages

Shaw Brothers Martial Arts Films
Beach Babes from Beyond (1993)
The Brotherhood V: Alumni (2009)
Boxer Rebellion (1976)
Superman (1980)
Killers on Wheels (1976)
Na Cha and the Seven Devils (1973)
Test Tube Teens from the Year 2000 (1994)