Friday, May 17, 2019
Date: Thursday 16 May 2019
Distributor: Madman Entertainment
Format: Digital Projection, Japanese dialogue with English subtitles
Length: 112 minutes
Production Date: 2019
Currently on Home Video in English (as of writing): No
Between the last time I reported on the last anime film I saw in the cinema and now, there literally has been no anime in cinemas at all. Half Symbolic haven’t announced any more anime films after distributing the two recent Science Saru films and Madman has only really hinted at a number of forthcoming films but given no firm release dates. I was rather pessimistic of the future of anime in cinemas due to dwindling audiences, especially with the very poor attendance of the “Love Live! Sunshine!!” screening, but was really surprised when around 50 people showed up at this screening. Unfortunately Dendy is still scheduling anime films to be shown only once per day, now at the slightly later time of 7pm. For me this is a somewhat more convenient time to go into the city, but I still had to fight traffic on Commonwealth Avenue as I managed to get caught up the evening traffic heading home to Belconnen.
Set one year after the events of the final episode in second series of “Code Geass”, we are reunited with the Black Knights, most of whom are visiting a Zero themed café run by some of the ex-members. Generally it seems the world is at peace since Suzaku, dressed as Zero, apparently assassinated Emperor Lelouch. Nunnally, now the Empress of Britannia, has traveled with her personal bodyguard, Zero (still Suzaku in disguise), on a goodwill mission at a UN refugee camp near the nation state of Zilkhistan. A large group of enemy Knightmares appears on the horizon and eventually surround Nunnally’s security detail and abducts her and Zero.
As the group attempts to leave the village, they are confronted by Zilkhistan operative Swaile Qujappat and his assassins. A Geass user himself, Qujappat uses it on Sayoko who now believes her allies are her enemy. C.C. and her comrades eventually gain the upper hand, neutralise the situation and Qujappat along with his assassins retreat. It order to return Lelouch to normal, C.C. needs to enter C's World via a thought temple located in the basement of a desert prison. The group enthusiastically agree to help C.C, in order to resurrect Lelouch so he can once again lead the Black Knights. Traveling across the harsh desert country, first disguised as a food delivery truck then as a prisoner transport van, the small group manage to infiltrate the prison. They quickly subdue the guards, C.C. decides to free the prisoners and the group set about gaining access to the basement levels in order to enter the thought temple.
Back in late 2016, on the date of the 10th anniversary of the original broadcast of the first episode of “Code Geass”, Sunrise hinted at the fact they were going to resurrect the franchise. Their plan later became clear with the release of a trilogy of compilation films in 2017 and 2018, which included a fair chunk of new animation, some of which changed the motivations and fates of some characters completely. This brand new film was later announced along with the revelation that pretty much all of the staff who worked on the original series, including director Goro Taniguchi, would be working on it. Though considered to be a spoiler, it was been made pretty clear in the film’s promotional material and on Sunrise’s social media accounts that Lelouch would be making an appearance. In fact C.C. explicitly says in the film’s trailer that she has resurrected him (hence the film’s title).
The audience is also bombarded with a huge cast. The staff seem hell bent on giving every character previously seen in the two TV series some screen time regardless of the fact if the character in question is actually integral to plot or not. I do find this type of screenwriting particularly annoying. Why do we need to see these people? It’s as if the creators think that if the audience don’t see thier favourite characters (no matter how insignificant they are in the franchise) they’ll feel short changed. It’s utterly pointless and impedes the story that is being told. Its fan service at its worst in my opinion. Adding to the issues this film has is the new animation found in the compilation film trilogy which, as I said before, does change the fates and motivations of some characters. The problem here is that if you haven’t seen those films (and many western fans don’t watch or like those type of films at all), you’d be utterly confused as to why characters who were dead or who received radically different fates in the series appear in this film.
In conclusion, I sort of couldn’t get into this movie as much as I would have liked to. I mean, I am fully aware the franchise as a whole is absurdly over the top, but I think at times it was all a bit too silly. Yes the core plot was pretty good, but the cameos of literally dozens of characters who really had little to do with the story bogged everything down. The action was pretty damn good, but in the end, the story basically comes full circle before the end credits begin. I sort of wondered what the point of it all was. This film does feel underwhelming. Some fans have made the point that the original TV series ending was perfect, so why bother with this film? A post credits sequence predictably hints at further sequels, confirmed recently by the series’ producer Kojiro Taniguchi, who says there is a decade long plan for the franchise. That news honestly fills me with dread. On balance, I can only give this film 6.5 out of 10.
Sunday, March 24, 2019
Format: Region 1 DVD, NTSC, Japanese Dialogue with English Subtitles
Length: 92 minutes
Production Date: 2017
Currently in Print (as of writing): Yes
I was planning to do a new series on documentaries on Japanese pop culture, but realised I don’t quite have enough examples to make it ongoing. Instead of making it a regular feature, I have decided to cover them as I find them. First up is Kyoko Miyake’s recent doco on idol culture;
The bulk of this documentary, seemingly shot between 2014 and 2016, follows the then 19 year old Rio Hiiragi as she tries shooting towards her dream career of being a singer. In order to reach this goal, she has entered the world of independent, underground idols. Though she is quick to point out that she never wanted to be an idol, this part of her career is just to get her to her goal. Rio originally began her idol career as a member of an idol group in a themed café when she was 16. While she does have a manager of sorts, Rio is mostly a one woman show. She runs her own online shop selling various goods and CDs, has meet and greets after shows and does daily live streams to her fans. Over a relatively short period she has gained a small but very dedicated following.
Miyake continues her odd focus on middle aged males in idol fandom, interviewing a guy who calls himself Mitacchi. In his late 50’s or older, Mitacchi discovered his idol obsession via a flyer handed to him by a waitress at his local pachinko parlour. The flyer was for a local idol themed café centred on indie underground idol group P.IDL. Going to the café, Mitacchi gets a crush on Yuka who is probably in her early 20’s. Amazingly Mitacchi dumps his girlfriend and begins to obsess on Yuka. He is constantly creating various bits of P.IDL and Yuka themed merchandise, some of which he gives her at the café. He later admits spending ¥200,000 a month on idol merchandise. The documentary shows him living in an old rundown apartment complex.
In between these segments, Miyake interviews several people (I’m not going to call them experts on idols or pop culture, because they aren’t) in regards to idol culture. We are treated to some rather bizarre takes. Newspaper columnist Akio Nakamori attempts to make comparisons with modern day Japan to the depressed state of the United Kingdom's economy of the 1970’s, drawing links between the emergence of punk in the UK and the increased popularity of idol culture in Japan. While to a large degree hard core fans of idol culture are railing against society, this is a bit of a stretch. Another writer suggests the handshake events, popularised by idol group AKB48, are inherently sexual and that until recently handshaking was seen as sexual in Japan and oddly handshaking events inhabit a “legal grey zone” (I’m going to suggest that both statements are utter rubbish). One commentator flippantly suggests that idols should be banned because he has anecdotally heard collage aged men say they would rather follow idols instead of getting a girlfriend.
In a lot of ways I really despise these sorts of documentaries. In cases like this, the point is not to educate the audience, it’s to insert the filmmaker’s ideology or biases into the subject. I think it’s even worse when you’re dealing with a subject most westerners are completely unfamiliar with (despite the recent interest in the west of idol acts such as Kyary Pamyu Pamyu and Babymetal). Watching this documentary alone would lead people to believe that the idol phenomenon is a relatively recent one and is entirely comprised of female only groups and soloists with an entirely male fanbase. I completely understand that there is only a limited time within the documentary format to explore the long history of idol culture, but the film outright ignores it’s origins in the 1970’s with groups like The Candies and Pink Lady becoming superstars and the formation of modern idol fandom culture in the 1980's. Male idols marketed at an adoring female fanbase such as Johnny & Associates acts like Arashi, V6, SMAP and Hey! Say! JUMP, most of whom exploded in popularity in the mid 1990’s, are also conspicuously absent, considering how they dominate the media landscape. Miyake also ignores the burgeoning alt-idol scene which includes anti-idol acts like BiS (Brand-new idol Society), crossdresser Ladybeard’s death metal inspired Ladybaby and Deadlift Lolita groups and anonymous shoegaze inspired group ・・・・・・・・・ (pronounced “Dots”).
Miyake also tars everyone in the film with the same brush; Rio is lumped in with the other idol groups, P.IDL, Harajuku Story and Amore Carina which is absurd because Rio is a free agent while those other groups are run by mostly male management and the girls in those groups are paid employees. The fans also receive the same treatment; all are male, all don’t want girlfriends, all are fanatical about young women or girls. There’s little to no nuance, no real questioning why these men have poured all their free time and money into these groups. There’s also little time or effort to explain why these fans might reject Japanese society, especially salary man culture. Instead Miyake paints the fans as strange and possibly even paedophilic. In one telling subtitle translation, a fan of Amore Carina states that he likes the group because “Their selling point is that they’re not fully developed”, implying that he likes prepubescent girls over women. However in Japanese he actually says “kansei sarete inai”, most likely meaning the girls in the group are not as polished or as developed as professional performers. In fact this is one of the key reasons why fans like amateur groups, but obviously it did not fit Miyake’s preconceived ideas on idol fandom.
Instead it’s lumped in with other random shots of Akihabara streets and other unconnected shots of Tokyo streetscapes. I also believe much of Rio’s story is presented out of sequence on purpose for dramatic effect. For example the film ends with Rio recording a single with a famous producer; however I believe this took place well before her 21st birthday concert. Much like Vice’s “Schoolgirls for Sale in Japan”, this doco takes a pop culture oddity from Japan (in that case idol group Kamen Joshi and their fans) and presents it as sinister and commonplace. Sure “Tokyo Idols” is hardly as sensationalistic nor does it cover the sex industry, but in many ways it feels similar. Much of the controversy and issues surrounding AKB48 are downplayed or ignored in favour of criticism of lower rung idol groups and their fans. It’s odd because you’d think Miyake would want to celebrate Rio’s independence and success against the odds. Idol culture deserves to be criticised and explored in much more nuanced and thorough detail. “Tokyo Idols” fails to do that on every level.
Thursday, March 21, 2019
Date: Thursday 21 March 2019
Distributor: Madman Entertainment
Format: Digital Projection, Japanese dialogue with some Italian dialogue and English subtitles
Length: 100 minutes
Production Date: 2019
Currently on Home Video in English (as of writing): No
So far 2019 has been a pretty good year for anime in cinemas. Not only have several films been released by Madman, a new film distributor, Half Symbolic, distributed the two recent Science Saru films, “Lu Over the Wall” and “The Night Is Short, Walk On Girl”, to cinemas in a limited screening format. But while there may be more anime in cinemas, there seems to be a lot less patrons. Looking back though my previous reviews of theatrical anime films, there used to be around 20 to 30 people attending these films around two or three years ago. Last year it averaged 15 people per film. Today’s screening had seven people.
Taking place soon after the final episode of the TV series (see here for a rundown of the series if you’re not familiar with the franchise), the second year students, Mari Ohara, Dia Kurosawa and Kanan Matsuura, set off on a post-graduation trip. The remaining six members of Aqours (pronounced Aqua) have decided to continue on as a group. As Uranohoshi Girls' High School has been formerly closed, they decide to take a trip out to see the new school they'll be attending next term, which is on the other side of the city. When they finally reach their destination, they are horrified to discover it is a mothballed and very run down primary school. They go to a restaurant to eat away their sorrows when they discover You Watanabe has left them and is outside talking to a boy her age. Believing that You has a boyfriend, the five of them follow her. But it is soon revealed that the “boy” is actually her female cousin, Tsuki Watanabe, who has come to visit her.
Despite this set back, the remaining six members of continue their training as part of being in the School Idol club. While training on the beach, they receive a visit from Saint Snow. Discussing their performance with them, Saint Snow asks them to perform to see where they went wrong. Sarah of Saint Snow says that because of the loss of the other three members, they seem to have forgotten who they are as a group. Her sister, the other half of Saint Snow, Leah, is quite angry at Aqours, tells them that Love Live! isn't a game and runs off. Sarah later explains that due to Saint Snow disbanding after their devastating loss at Love Live!, Leah has been trying to create a new idol group, however the new group isn’t working very well as a unit, mainly because Leah expects a very high standard from her fellow members. Suddenly a helicopter flies in quickly from the ocean and Mari Ohara’s mother hops out.
Aqours follow the clues to Florence which eventually leads them to the mansion that the trio are staying at. Despite Mari taking extra steps to avoid her mother by staying at her friend’s family mansion instead her own family’s, her mother eventually tracks her down. Mrs Ohara is frustrated with Mari’s rebellious streak and thinks her time as a school idol was waste of time. She plans to punish Mari (trying not to give away spoilers here!), but Aqours makes a deal with her; if they can show that being a school idol can touch people’s hearts, she has to leave Mari alone. Aqours embark on creating a new performance on the Spanish Steps in Rome in order to win Mrs Ohara over.
I think as a result, “Love Live! Sunshine!!” feels more realistic than its predecessor, or at least more believable. Sure a lot of it is rather silly, especially the plot involving Mari’s mother and whole Italian trip. The idea that Aqours members, Riko Sakurauchi and Chika Takami, could write and produce dozens of great pop tunes for the group seems somewhat implausible. As do the fantastically choreographed set pieces, though they seem more plausible than the almost high fantasy ones that appear in the original series and movie of this franchise. There’s also the cruelness of their new school practically quarantining the students from Uranohoshi Girls' High School away in some run down primary school as if they were diseased or something. And because Aqours actually won Love Live!, a highly popular school idol contest, it seems really implausible that their new school would be unaware of this and wouldn’t open their arms to them and the group in order to be seen in a positive light from the community and to bring in potential students.
However the other five performances from Aqours members during the film aren’t bad either. Sure, they may not have the over the top gloss µ's performances did in the original film, but the musical sequences are really fun and engaging. Except for two of those performances, all are “real performances” in the context of the film (i.e. a planned performance for an audience on a stage). There isn’t a great deal of out of the blue song and dance musical type numbers which were common in the first movie. Like that film there is a total of seven songs performed. However one of those is not a choreographed performance but set to a montage of the girls preparing a stage for the opening of their new school. The seventh song is the previously mentioned Saint Snow performance. As per the rest of the franchise, as you'd expect, there isn’t much character development in this film. The cast reprise their character traits and catchphrases, mostly for comedic purposes. Yoshiko Tsushima’s alternate Yohane personality unsurprisingly does get a lot screen time, but not to the detriment of the other girl’s.
Eirin mark, which is highly unusual for a Japanese film. 7 out of 10.
Friday, January 11, 2019
Unfortunately I will be taking a little bit of a forced break from this blog for a little while. My PC is on the way out (think the hard drive is just about to give up the ghost. Had this PC for 9 years, which is a decent run), so I'll be getting a new one. However no one in my local area does custom PCs (I refuse to go to Harvey Norman for an overpriced one), so I'm going to have to order one online. Been meaning to do this for a long time now, but the impending death of my current PC has finally forced my hand. As a result I won't be doing any more posts for a little while. Hope to be back within a month. It's bit of a shame as I have been on a roll for a little while and have been able to make a post almost every week for a while now.
Friday, January 4, 2019
Format: PAL VHS, Japanese Dialogue with English Subtitles
Runtime: 77 mins
Catalogue Number: WEST038
Japanese Title: Chouju Kishin Dancouga: God Bless Dancouga (God Bless Dancougar)
Japanese Production Date: 1987
This is the eighth part in a series of nine articles on the somewhat obscure 1990’s UK based video distributor Western Connection and the anime titles they released in English, titles that no one else bothered to re-release anywhere else. For a run down on what I thought made the company so special, see here. Continuing on with their 1995 releases, a very productive year for the company, we come to one of the odder tapes they released; the feature length OVA “God Bless Dancougar”, a concluding chapter to the 38 part “Dancouga” TV series which had not been released in English at that point in time. I previously reviewed the 2017 Discotek DVD release of the TV series here. Besides being an odd choice for UK release, what makes this release one of the strangest releases from the company is the baffling state of the video master that licensor Toho gave Western Connection.
The next day Sara goes to see an old friend of hers from the Space Officer Academy that she hasn't seen before the war. Sayuri was rather timid when Sara first met her, but now she has a doctorate in computer engineering and seems very confident. Sara almost doesn't recognise her at first. The following day the CBF are scrambled as a giant monster, possibly something left over from the Muge Empire invasion, attacks the city. The team are having trouble trying to defeat the monster, and even Professor Hazukito is unable to provide them with any information or tactics to deal with the creature they're fighting. During combat Sayuri contacts Sara and gives her all the data she has on the mysterious creature. Unfortunately a tragedy is about to occur. The fighting closes in Masato's family villa and it is destroyed, instantly killing his father. The monster then self-destructs destroying the city as a result.
When the three CBF team members arrive, Reki tells them that she was the Black Knight’s girlfriend, and that she has carried on his legacy. Professor Hazukito is also there and tells them that he is involved in this too. He explains that Sayuri is planning to control the world by the use of a super computer and the government has become tyrannical. Somehow Sayuri has managed to create a computer that lives off data and this computer has created a new dimension that might cause the world to vanish into dimensional space if it isn't stopped. Not only that, Sayuri has kidnapped Sara. The CBF members set off to defeat Sayuri and rescue Sara, but unbeknown to them Emperor Muge is alive and well, and it is he who is behind this plan.
Unfortunately the mind boggles at the reasoning behind this release from Western Connection. This tape was released over a year before the “Dancougar” TV series began being released in the US on VHS by Software Sculptors. “Dancougar” never played on TV in the UK either, so why in hell would they pick it for UK distribution? While you could probably understand the OVA to degree without watching the TV series, it’s far more beneficial to do so. UK viewers must have been utterly confused as to who these people were and what they were doing. The wedding sequence at the end of the film must have bamboozled them completely. I can just see hundreds of UK viewers saying “where the hell did this girl come from?”. I bet some viewers must have concluded that all of her scenes prior to the wedding sequence had been deleted from the video.
So what in hell was going on? It would seem this OVA was shot in a “open matte” aspect, possibly for dual TV/theatrical distribution. This was a very common practice in the 1980’s for theatrical anime. What used to happen with anime films in this era was that they were shot in an “open matte” format (i.e. 4:3 ratio, same as a normal TV screen), then matted into theatrical ratio for theatrical distribution (i.e. the top and bottom of picture blacked out so it was the same as the theatrical ratio, “vista” size, 16:9 ratio). This way when it was later shown on TV or for video distribution, there was no need for an expensive pan and scan conversion since it was originally filmed in a 4:3 TV sized format. What doesn't make sense however is why the camera operators have filmed “God Bless Dancouga” in a way so you could see where the tops and bottoms of cels had ended (the painters and animators only paint and draw what needs to be shown in a shot or frame, nothing more. Characters don't usually take up a whole cel from top to bottom).
Western Connection's production is also up to their usual crappy standards. The subtitle timing is a little off as per usual but more spot on than some of their other titles. Surprisingly some of the translation isn’t great. Some of the lines don’t make a lot of sense. As for the VHS slick, instead doing the usual and taking the synopsis from a Anime UK/Anime FX review, they've actually written one themselves. However it misspells or makes up character names (who the hell are Shino, Rat and Masa?) and borders on the edge on being incomprehensible. In fact it's complete dribble and barely makes sense. Bizarrely two of the three pictures on the back of the cover of the tape aren't even from this OVA. One is a shot seems to be from the concluding “Dancouga” OVA series “White Hot Final Chapter” (which hasn't been released commercially in English anywhere in the world yet and most likely it will never be). The other picture isn’t even from the “Dancouga” franchise at all. It’s from “Ai City”, another Toho movie that Western Connection released as “Love City”.
It's nearly impossible to find this tape. It’s not listed on Amazon UK like the majority of other Western Connection titles and I’ve never seen it for sale on eBay. I had real difficulty trying to get a copy until I discovered somebody selling off their personal anime collection and offered them a decent price for it some 15 or so years ago. I don't know if it was worth all the effort to find it as the story and plot are a little silly and trite. The state of the master used for UK VHS release would also dissuade even the most hard core fans of the franchise from tracking the tape down. Still it's a decent robot anime and I got some kicks out of it, plus the animation is very good for a mid-1980's production. I would have thought that Discotek might licence and release this OVA plus the remaining OVAs to complement their “Dancouga” TV series DVD release. To date this hasn’t happened which is a bit of a shame.
Friday, December 28, 2018
Publisher: Kadokawa Shoten (Japan)
Format: Region Free Blu-ray, NTSC, Japanese Dialogue with optional English and Japanese Subtitles
Length: 105 mins
Production Date: 2012
English Version Release Date: 25 January 2013
Currently in Print (as of writing): Yes
Debuting in the same season as the much hyped second series of “Code Geass”, as well as “Macross Frontier”, “Kaiba” and a whole slew of ongoing anime series based on very popular shonen manga titles, its little wonder that the original 2008 TV series of “Library War” was lost and forgotten by many anime fans (despite finally getting an English language DVD release from by Discotek in August 2015). Naturally this follow up movie had even less chance of being noticed by English speaking fans, despite the fact the Japanese blu-ray came with optional English subtitles. Based upon an extremely popular series of light novels aimed at young women by Hiro Arikawa, the series was turned into a 13 part anime TV series by Production I.G and broadcast on Fuji TV's noitaminA programming block.
The anime adaptation however begins in 2019, where we are introduced to new recruit Iku Kasahara. She decided to join the LDF after encountering one of its members who saved her after being harassed by a MBC troop in a bookshop who wanted to confiscate the book she wanted to buy. Kasahara considers the man who saved her to be her prince. While she is quite proficient at the military side of her job, her librarian skills aren’t so great. She is always being chewed out by her commanding officer Atsushi Dojo. Neither of them gets along too well with the other (yes, of course they develop romantic feelings for each other!). Kasahara is roommates at her dorm with Asako Shibasaki. Shibasaki is a Library Clerk First Class, but also an intelligence specialist who is exceptional at gathering information. She also is very caring of Kasahara and is always helping her out. The series veers from “slice of life” light-hearted comedy and drama mixed with romantic undertones from our two leads (Kasahara and Dojo) to full on battles with the MBC wrapped in the politics of censorship and issues to do with freedom of speech.
Kasahara and Dojo meet up, go to the café and later decide to head out to see a film. But before they can even reach the cinema they are both recalled back to work as an emergency has been declared. Upon arriving back at barracks, they spot several MBC agents in suits outside. Determined to get inside they barge past them, however it seems they aren’t there to stop LDF officers from getting in. Inside Kasahara and Dojo are given new orders; they are to be security detail to author Kurato Touma. Dojo is huge fan of his work and almost overeager to comply. It is explained that Kurato is being sought by the MBC as his novel “Nuclear Peril” has a plot similar to the crisis developing at the nuclear reactor in Tsuruga. The government believe that terrorists have copied the plot from the book and have put a warrant out for Kurato’s arrest. However the LDF want to defend Kurato and are horrified that the MBC is now going after authors. They attempt to have an injunction put in place for Kurato’s arrest.
The MBC infiltrate Kazuichi’s residence, but Kasahara and Dojo have already initiated an audacious plan to get Kurato to safety. The MBC try to stop them by any means including firing live bullets at their car, but ultimately fail. Video of the MBC’s incredibly violent actions in attempting to stop Kurato's escape reach a local TV station who broadcast it. The public are disgusted at the MBC’s actions; however the station is shut down for a day by the MBC for violating the Media Betterment Act. Knowing they practically have no chance in winning the court case and that Kurato will be forced to stop writing or worse, locked up for good, the LDF try to come up with a new plan to protect Kurato. Kasahara suggests the idea of him asking for asylum at one of the embassies. The court case verdict comes down and Kurato is bared from writing for five years until they capture the terrorists. Kasahara and Dojo first attempt to get Kurato to the Dutch embassy then when that fails, to the British one, but are blocked by MBC agents at every turn. Worse is to come with Dojo being hit by a bullet in the leg. However Kasahara refuses to leave him behind or give up on getting asylum for Kurato.
While the actions and uniforms of the Media Betterment Committee agents in the TV series scream “fascism”, the movie amps this up even further. The pre-credit sequence shows agents raiding the main branch of Kinokuniya Book Shop in Shinjuku, loading up several trucks worth of books then depicting them being taken to a large industrial incinerator complex and being dumped to individual incinerators by dump trucks. Unlike the TV series which shied away from showing mass book burning, here it makes no bones about the fact that it is done literally on a large industrial scale. Also not explicitly shown in the TV series was the censorship of mass media in regards to how the actions of the Media Betterment Committee agents are reported. In the movie it is made clear that any criticism of them would be met with sanctions against the offending TV station or paper.
However due to the heavy emphasis on the main characters and their relationships, as well the somewhat dry lead up to the injunction to Kurato’s detainment, the movie doesn’t really kick into gear until almost half way through. Once it does however, the action sequences are pretty spectacular, albeit in limited supply and perhaps a little over the top. However this is also one of the problems with the anime franchise as a whole. The over the top actions between both warning camps who are defending what amounts to a few books seems absurd, especially when there doesn’t seems to be any restrictions on other forms of media such as the internet (which is barely mentioned at all in the series or film). However the actions sequences are to a degree depicted in a more realistic light in the movie. The latter part of the movie shifts the film’s location to Osaka as Kasahara attempts to get Kurato into one of the city’s consulates so he can claim asylum. However this section of the film contains some of the worst Osakaian clichés imaginable, including the abuse of the local accent.
Overall I can probably only recommend this movie to those who know and like the TV series. Due to the fact there are several flashbacks in the first part of the film, it’s fairly easy to watch it without any prior knowledge of the TV series or novels, but it would make the experience far more rewarding. The early part of the film is mostly preoccupied with tying up some loose ends from the TV series as well reintroducing some bit players, but also conveying the plot of the movie in regards to Media Betterment Committee wanting to detain Kurato Touma and the LDF filing an injunction to stop this. It really is a lot of elements to keep track of. I think for the most part the screenwriter and director manage to juggle all of those elements fairly well. However some parts are glossed over or just forgotten about. For example several characters claim that the terrorist attack on the nuclear reactor was set up in order to further clamp down on authors. However this is only mentioned twice in the film in passing and never followed up. The second half of the film is far more exciting and action filled, but it can become a little bit silly at times. However I think on balance both the TV series and film are worth your time. It has been over three years since Discotek released the TV series and it seems a little unlikely at this stage they will release the film. Luckily both editions of the blu-ray are still in print in Japan. The single disc version will set you back ¥5,800, the special edition set costs ¥7,800. Both can also be found in the second hard market for less.
Saturday, December 22, 2018
Original Year of Release: 1989 - 1990
English Video Release: 1994 - 1995, NTSC VHS, Japanese Dialogue with English subtitles (also released as a NTSC Laserdisc, Japanese Dialogue with English subtitles in 1995 and PAL VHS, English Dubbed in 1996, in the UK)
Japanese Title: Red Fang Blue Sonnet (Akai Kiba Blue Sonnet)
Runtime: 5 episodes x 30 mins
Sonnet Barje grew up in the slums of an unnamed US city. After being treated in an extremely cruel manner by a group of men, she discovers that she has the power of telekinesis and ends up taking revenge. Later she is rescued by Dr Merikus and who transforms her into a cyborg for the evil organisation Talon. A test in the Arizona desert, where Sonnet takes on and defeats a platoon of tanks and helicopter gunship, shows she can take on whole armies with the use of her heightened ESP solely by herself. Dr Merikus sends Sonnet to Tokyo to investigate a girl named Lan Komatsuzaki. Dr Merikus believes she is the “Red Fang”, an “esper” from a long line of Ancients who possessed incredible powers. Sonnet transfers into Osei High, Lan’s school, where Sonnet gains a reputation as being a “super lady”. She can speak seven languages, tops all her classes and is exceptional in any sport she plays. Lan however feels a certain unease about Sonnet and is wary of her. When she tells her guardian, investigative journalist and author Jin Kiryu, he laughs it off. He has taken care of Lan since she was small, and reminds her that her abilities as an esper are a gift and though she should show anyone her powers, she isn’t a monster. However Kiryu is aware that something inside Lan is changing her.
Soon Wataru’s condition is stable. Torigai warns Lan to be careful of Sonnet as he leaves. She is rather surprised at this advice and tells Kiryu that she feels that Sonnet is after her. Sonnet is convinced Lan is the Red Fang. Dr Merikus arrives in Japan to confirm. He is greeted at the airport by representatives of Talon’s Japanese front, Azumi Industries. But upon travelling to the company’s experimental base in Narita, a group of bikers force them off the road and attempt to take Sonnet hostage (because as we all know, Japan is full of violent “Mad Max” style bikie gangs that attack people constantly). After making sure there are no witnesses present, Dr Merikus gives Sonnet the go ahead to dispose of the bikers. This display shocks the two representatives from Azumi, however they are also impressed. On a hunch Kiryu begins to investigate Azumi Industries after he learns that they are researching psychic powers as well as cyborg technology. The investigation takes him out of town which gives Talon a chance to pounce on Lan.
Unfortunately for Dr Onagara and his guests, Talon agents including Sonnet and Dr Merikus surround the house and take Lan and Kiryu forcefully. Dr Merikus orders them to kill Onagara, his assistant and his granddaughter, but Sonnet, who is beginning to question his tactics, secretly stops the bullets from killing them. The Talon agents set the house ablaze, but Onagara's assistant, daughter and grandchild are saved by Wataru and Torigai (or as Wataru nicknamed him, Bird). Bird reveals himself to be a prototype cyborg that Dr Merikus created. He rebelled and now fights against Talon. Meanwhile Lan and Kiryu have been taken to a secret laboratory. Talon wants to make clones of Lan so that they can have an army of Espers to do their bidding, and forcibly remove ovum from her to be planted into two surrogate mothers and a mechanical womb. Bird, Yuri and Wataru attempt to hatch a plan to rescue Kiryu and Lan.
From what I’ve seen the OVA, like the manga does have a load of violence and nudity in it. Girls love exploding heads and naked women apparently. It’s kind of hard to fathom really. But then again look at the violence and bloodshed in CLAMP's “X” manga. However I think producers of the “Blue Sonnet” anime may have decided to amp up the violence and nudity content to make it more appealing to male viewers. Even though Sonnet is the bad guy, you really feel for her, especially after the opening sequence which shows her back story. She's been abused sexually, raped and is forced to be a prostitute. Of course she later violently kills the evil men that did this to her with the use of ESP. During the series Sonnet begins to change after she goes to school for the first time and realises what a normal life is like. She begins to question her life of violence and killing. The opening animation also shows Lan attacking Sonnet with her powers. This unfortunately doesn't happen in any of the episodes. Lan is just a normal reserved girl, except for the fact she has ESP, but she never lets anyone know she has it. She only uses it when she's in danger or upset, and then it's used almost subconsciously.
The only real negatives of the show are the animation which isn't that spectacular for its time, especially for an OVA series. There’s also the lack of a conclusive ending. Will Lan and Bird continue to fight Talon? Will Sonnet finally rebel against Dr Merikus? Annoyingly these questions aren't answered in the anime. Like a lot of short OVAs based upon long running manga series, the series partly seems to be a ploy to get people to buy the manga to see what happens next. This OVA was released by Central Park Media (CPM) at a time when they had a dubbing deal with Manga Video in the UK. Manga dubbed a lot of their early titles, mainly because it was cheaper I suppose. Dubs like “Project A-ko” and “Dominion Tank Police” were a part of this deal. For whatever reason Manga didn't take on this project until two years after the US release. CPM didn't release it dubbed in the US either. It's a bit unfortunate as it's a really underappreciated anime.