Stephen reviews: Mononoke (2007)

mononoke_1Mononoke [モノノ怪] (2007)

Starring Takahiro Sakurai, Aiko Hibi, Daisuke Namikawa, Daisuke Sakaguchi, Eiji Takemoto, Fumiko Orikasa, Hikaru Midorikawa, Hiroshi Iwasaki, Houko Kuwashima, Kōzō Shioya, Masashi Hirose, Minoru Inaba, Rie Tanaka, Ryusei Nakao, Seiji Sasaki, Takeshi Aono, Tomokazu Seki, Toshiko Fujita, Wakana Yamazaki, Yasuhiro Takato, Yoko Soumi, Yukana

Directed by Kenji Nakamura


I know you’re not supposed to judge a book (or in this case a TV series) by its cover, but sometimes that’s all you really need. As soon as I laid eyes on the cover art for Mononoke, I knew it was going to be great. My gut refused to believe otherwise. And it’s decisions like this that have made me very trusting of my gut over the years, at least when it comes to anime. My one and only concern was that the cover was not what the actual animation would look like. Thankfully that bizarre, otherworldly art design is exactly what you get on the inside.

Those light shades and faded pastels are a very unusual choice of colors for a horror story. Usually you want some all-obscuring darkness to ratchet up the mystery, but for me that bright color palette was more mysterious than any darkness could ever be. It’s clear right from the start that you are in a completely different world when you watch Mononoke, and you don’t know what you’re going to find. All that was apparent just from the box; all that remained was seeing if the show could actually live up to my foolishly high expectations. And boy did it ever!

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Stephen reviews: Silent Möbius: The Movie 2 (1992)

mp09Silent Möbius: The Movie 2 [サイレントメビウス2] (1992)

Starring Naoko Matsui, Maya Okamoto, Chieko Honda, Hiromi Tsuru, Toshiko Fujita, Gara Takashima

Directed by Yasunori Ide


Oh boy, here we go again. I really didn’t want to dive back into Silent Möbius, but I figured that I would need to tackle the sequel before my memories of the first film faded into complete obscurity. I figured correctly, because even more than most sequels, Silent Möbius 2 absolutely requires knowledge of the first film to make any sense. It also turns out that the sequel was a vast improvement (not that that’s saying much), which I did not expect at all, and it tackles exactly the biggest problem I had with the story of the first film, which was that they had skipped over why Katsumi joins the police after discovering her powers.

The sequel begins immediately after the events of the first film, and it just assumes that you saw all that and don’t need any kind of refresher. This works out rather weird since the first film had a frame setup and after the main story it switched from Katsumi hating the police to four years later when she is a member of the police force. This film starts after the events of the flashback but still well before Katsumi became an officer. In fact, I wonder why they even bothered making the two films separate. They are so short and so integral to each other that they really would have been better had they just been edited into a single film.

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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.

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Stephen reviews: Space Adventure Cobra (1982)

36672_280812_112738Space Adventure Cobra [スペースアドベンチャー コブラ Cobra Gekijōban] (1982)

Starring Shigeru Matsuzaki, Akiko Nakamura, Toshiko Fujita, Jun Fubiki, Yoshiko Sakakibara, Reiko Tajima, Akira Kume, Goro Mitsumi

Directed by Osamu Dezaki


The ’80s were a magical time, as anyone who lived through the era can attest. Space Adventure Cobra got an extra dose of that special charm, and if you’re a fan of that time period you will love it. Perhaps it would be more accurate to say that it got an extra dose of ’70s charm (another magical era all its own), since the manga it is based upon began in that decade. Cobra is a bizarre psychedelic space opera filled with over-the-top action and a heaping mountain of sexy girls in varying degrees of undress. Sense? We don’t need sense. We have crazy-awesome, and that’s even better.

The space pirate Cobra is famed for being the only guy who can transform his left arm into a psycho gun, which is apparently pretty damn powerful. But since he pissed off just about everybody in the galaxy, he’s racked up the largest bounty ever. So Cobra has decided to lie low for a while. But he falls for Jane, a beautiful bounty hunter that’s been tracking him down. Turns out she wants his help rescuing her sister from prison. Cobra is eager to please, even though it means showing his face again and tangling with his old rival, Crystal Boy. If you think that name’s a little too cheesy, there are other translations that call him Crystal Bowie, but screw that shit; I’ll take my ’80s action adventures with extra cheese, thank you.

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Stephen reviews: Locke the Superman (1984)

lockethesuperman_1Locke the Superman [超人ロック] (1984)
AKA Locke the Superman: Millennium of the Witch, Locke the Superpower, Star Warriors

Starring Keiichi Nanba, Yoshito Yasuhara, Keiko Han, Toshiko Fujita, Taeko Nakanishi

Directed by Hiroshi Fukutomi


In this adventure, Superman fights Lex Luthor’s evil army of — psych! This isn’t actually a Superman film at all. It just coincidentally has the word “Superman” in the title. I’m not sure what confusions the various translations between English and Japanese created, but that’s the name we got. Being unrelated doesn’t mean they aren’t similar, though. Locke is indeed pretty super. He even grabs a red cape and blue outfit just for kicks at the end of the film.

Also like Superman, the Superman has a vast array of powers that make him damn near unstoppable. All right, I have to start clearing things up before we all go insane, myself especially. Fortunately, Superman, the one with the red cape — oh wait they both have that. The one in tights then. Dang it, they both have tights too! OK, the guy from Krypton. They can’t both be from there, right? Good. That one has a few nicknames, so I’ll be referring to him as the Man of Steel just so we’ll know who I’m talking about.

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Stephen reviews: The Professional: Golgo 13 (1983)

The Professional: Golgo 13 [ゴルゴ13] (1983)

Starring Tetsuro Sagawa, Goro Naya, Reiko Muto, Toshiko Fujita, Kumiko Takizawa, Koichi Chiba, Kousei Tomita, Kiyoshi Kobayashi, Shingo Kanemoto

Directed by Osamu Dezaki


A decade before Leon, it was a Japanese hit man called Golgo 13 that had “The Professional” added to the title of his film for its U.S. release. This long-ago spy thriller follows the adventures of a blue spectacled badass as he scours the globe, taking out hits on various high-level political and criminal leaders, and earning one huge grudge along the way.

Unlike Leon, Golgo’s story is not one to delve into the human psyche, or even delve into his personality at all. Golgo remains a calm and controlled professional at all times, and has the sex appeal to make every girl in the room swoon on sight. So he really bears more resemblance to James Bond than Leon, though Bond has more personality and flare. Golgo handles every situation, no matter how unexpected, with the same stoic and taciturn demeanor, even when having sex, which he does at every opportunity. It’s rather humorous to see him sit there as if he isn’t even interested while the girls flail and moan in uncontrollable ecstasy.

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Stephen reviews: Wicked City (1987)

Wicked City [妖獣都市, Yoju Toshi] (1987)

Starring Yuusaku Yara, Toshiko Fujita, Ichirô Nagai, Takeshi Aono, Mari Yokoo.

Directed by Yoshiaki Kawajiri


It’s time to get out of the kiddie pool and head for the royally fucked up pool. I have thus far in my reviewing career avoided the nastier areas of anime, but that had to end sometime, and October’s horror marathon is as good a place as any to head over to the dark side. Wicked City is yet another Hideyuki Kikuchi adaptation, and like Demon City it is directed by Yoshiaki Kawajiri. If I was to compare that film with Vampire Hunter D, I would have to say that Toyoo Ashida was the better director for adapting Kikuchi’s works, but here Kawajiri proves that he really can handle the job just as well, if not better.

The animation is damn good, just like all his other films that I have seen, although the beginning moments felt below average. I was initially disappointed, but as soon as the first monster shows up it amps up the quality and never looks back, matching Demon City for gorgeous and grisly visuals. There’s not much outright gore, though. It’s more about crazy nasty monsters lurking around every corner than blood and guts splattered everywhere.

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