Stephen reviews: New Kimagure Orange Road: Summer’s Beginning (1996)

summersbeginning_1New Kimagure Orange Road: Summer’s Beginning [新きまぐれオレンジ☆ロード ~ そして、あの夏のはじまり Shin Kimagure Orange Road – Soshite, Ano Natsu no Hajimari] (1996)
AKA New Kimagure Orange Road: And Then, The Beginning of That Summer

Starring Tohru Furuya, Hiromi Tsuru, Eriko Hara, Kenichi Ogata

Directed by Kunihiko Yuyama


I’ve never been a huge fan of Kimagure. Its humor always struck me as bland and uninspired, but its first movie, I Want to Return to That Day, was such an odd and compelling title that I have wanted to delve into the series more. Summer’s Beginning tries to do what IWTRTTD did by losing the comedic tone and making it a more straight-up romance. But it doesn’t really have the nerve to go all the way with it, and it leaves in a lot of the sillier elements of the series. I’m not too fond of this approach as it only serves to dilute both aspects of the story without achieving the depth of emotion that IWTRTTD had. This may just be that I never really did care for the humor of Kimagure, but hey, at least it’s still better than an American sitcom.

Summer’s Beginning is not a sequel to IWTRTTD; it’s actually a sequel to the later series New Kimagure Orange Road, though I’m not exactly sure whether the second series is a sequel, a remake, or something else entirely. Summer’s Beginning starts off after IWTRTTD ends, and as far as my fading memories go, there are no contradictions to the story. There are even several flashbacks to events that happened in IWTRTTD, making it seem like Summer’s Beginning might well be a sequel to it. What Summer’s Beginning does differently, however, is keep all the psychic powers that IWTRTTD conveniently forgot about. In fact, those powers form the crux of the entire plot in Summer’s Beginning.

Continue reading Stephen reviews: New Kimagure Orange Road: Summer’s Beginning (1996) →

Stephen reviews: Macross II (1992)

macross2Macross II [超時空要塞マクロスII Lovers Again (Chōjikū Yōsai Macross II – Lovers Again)] (1992)
AKA Macross II: The Movie, Super Dimensional Fortress Macross II: The Movie, Super Dimensional Fortress Macross II: Lovers Again

Starring Hiroko Kasahara, Tsutomu Takayama, Yumi Touma, Bin Shimada, Tohru Furuya, Ryotaro Okiayu

Directed by Kenichi Yatagai


Macross II is the black sheep of the franchise, and isn’t even considered a part of the real story. Partially this is because the company that owns the copyrights, Big West, hired a completely different studio to make it, thus leaving out the entire team responsible for creating the series in the first place. The other reason is simpler: Macross II just isn’t very good. Oh, if only we could brush the Star Wars prequels under the rug with the same ease that this one was forgotten.

It’s also rather difficult to call this a movie. It was made as a six episode mini-series, and while I always knew the movie version was nothing more than editing those episodes into one film, I had no idea just how lazy a job it was. All they did was hack off the opening and ending credits and string the episodes together in order. Hell, they didn’t even take out the episode titles or the eyecatch, both of which you’ll be seeing every half hour. But if they’re going to slap “the movie” on the packaging and market it as such, then I guess I can play along until the end of the review.

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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: Harmagedon (1983)

Harmagedon [幻魔大戦] (1983)
AKA Harmagedon: The Great Battle with Genma, Harmagedon: Genma Taisen, Genma Wars

Starring Tōru Furuya, Mami Koyama, Ichirô Nagai, Toru Emori, Yasufumi Hayashi, Junpei Takiguchi, Takanobu Hozumi

Directed by Rintaro


How can I not love an 80s movie called Harmagedon? As soon as I realized I had missed out on what could only be a supreme gem of 80s awesome, I had to rectify the situation. Once I popped it in the DVD player and realized that this was also a film by Rintaro, my expectations were through the roof. Now I have always had my issues with Rintaro’s films, but one thing is certain: the man can make a badass action scene. Even when his films as a whole aren’t that great, which is usually the case, there is always some part of them so amazing that I still can’t help but love them. Then I found out he was teamed up with Katsuhiro Otomo, the creator of Akira, and my mind was blown. And then there’s the inexplicable addition of Keith Emerson, of Emerson, Lake and Palmer fame, as music composer. Sure he only did about one-third of the film’s music, but there’s no confusing which it was when one of his tunes kicks in, synth ablazing. Do I even have to say more? This film is a total trip of epic proportions.

The bizarreness kicks in straight away with the narrator. Most films opt for a calm and objective narrator, but not Harmagedon. Its narrator is a crazed, black-robed fortune-teller prancing around the empty streets of Tokyo raving about the apocalypse. And mysteriously teleporting around. We mustn’t forget about that. If this doesn’t prepare you for some crazy shit, maybe the next scene will.

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Stephen reviews: Kimagure Orange Road: I Want To Return To That Day (1988)

Kimagure Orange Road: I Want To Return To That Day [きまぐれオレンジ★ロード あの日にかえりたい, Kimagure Orenji Rodo: Ano Hi ni Kaeritai] AKA Kimagure Orange Road: the Movie, Johnny y sus amigos: Una difícil elección

Starring Tōru Furuya, Hiromi Tsuru, Eriko Hara

Directed by Tomomichi Mochizuki


This is one of the stranger anime I have seen. It is based upon a romantic comedy series that is heavy on the comedy and light on the romance. In typical anime slapstick mode, it had all sorts of bizarre physical jokes reminiscent of Saturday morning cartoons. A boy named Kyosuke and his entire family had super powers with fairly loose definitions (Think Jedi knights without lightsabers or heroics). They tried to hide their powers from the rest of society, and much of the show revolved around trying to keep it secret. He then becomes entwined in a goofy love triangle with Hikaru, a hyper, obnoxious girl who is obsessed with him, and Madoka, a quiet, temperamental girl who makes a habit of beating up thugs using nothing more than a guitar pick. From my first statement, you probably expect this film to take those concepts to new heights of Japanese weird. Not this time. It is almost pure romance with only a few halfhearted, and failed, attempts at humor. No super powers. No shrill obnoxious whining. No hurtling guitar picks of doom. Just the three main characters and their love triangle. This sudden shift in style and tone from its source material is why I call it strange, and I’m afraid that if there is any explanation, I am unaware of it.

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